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Spike in 'Hi Mum' scams

23/09/2022

How to spot and avoid the latest impersonation scam.

Would you always respond without question to a message from a friend or family member asking for help? Many of us would – but doing so right now could get you into financial hot water due to a spike in what Scamwatch are calling the ‘Hi Mum’ scam or ‘family impersonation’ scam. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the ‘Hi Mum’ scam?

The Hi Mum scam is a text message scam in which victims receive a message from a contact titled ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’, or a close friend, to make the message seem more convincing.

With thousands of Australians sadly falling victims since June this year, the sophisticated scam is a reminder to be vigilant of suspicious texts or messages from a number you don’t recognise.

Example of a Hi mum scam text message.

How does the Hi Mum scam work?

It’s a scam that’s designed to pull at the heartstrings and make you want to help someone you love, says Scamwatch.

Scammers will contact victims either via a text message or through WhatsApp, posing as either a child, parent, relative or friend.

In one report from an Australian victim of the scam, the message read, ‘Can you please send me $150? Brought the wrong card with me to the petrol station’ and included a BSB and account number beneath the message. In other messages, the scammer said they were ‘at Coles’ and ‘brought the wrong card’, with a promise to ‘I’ll pay you back tomorrow afternoon’. Bank details were also pasted below the message.

Police say scammers may also pretend to be adult children sending messages reading something like, “Hi mum, I’ve changed provider / lost my phone – so I’m using this number for now’. After trying to build a rapport, the scammer will usually request funds due to some kind of emergency – such as money for a bill or to buy a new phone, because they’re unable to access their account.

How can I avoid the Hi Mum scam?

Some tips on spotting this scam if it happens to you:

  • Do you recognise the number? Be suspicious of any messages that originate from a number you don’t recognise, or a text or WhatsApp message that says something like, ‘It’s me’. In other cases, scammers may have contact information and use the name of the person they’re posing as.
  • Verify the contact. The first thing to do if you receive a message from someone claiming to be a relative or friend is to call them on the number that’s already stored in your phone, to confirm whether they pick up. If they do, you know the text message or WhatsApp message you’ve received is a scam.
  • Reach out to a secondary contact. If you can’t reach the person via the number you have saved for them, try to get in touch with someone close to them to verify what’s happening and whether they are actually in trouble / have lost their phone.
  • Ask a personal question. If you’re unable to make independent contact with your friend or family member, ask the scammer a personal question that they wouldn’t know the answer to unless they were the actual person.
  • Never provide your credit card or personal details to a number you don’t recognise or if you receive a call claiming to be from your bank or another seemingly legitimate organisation. Always call your bank to check.

What should I do if I’m taken in by a Hi Mum scammer?

If you believe you have been scammed and you’ve transferred money, the first thing to do is to contact your bank to let them know.

You should also report the scam to Scamwatch at scamwatch.gov.au.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information only and we do not endorse their content.

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