Police are cautioning the public to be vigilant when interacting with people on WhatsApp after a woman was scammed out £1,700. The victim paid the money into the account of the fraudster, who posed as a family member in distress.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) say they have noticed an increase in the number of reports of scam text and WhatsApp messages which purport to be from a family member in need of money.
According to the police, the fraudulent message would typically begin by claiming the family member had changed their phone number.
Describing these scams as 'despicable acts', Superintendent Gerard Pollack the fraudsters took advantage of people’s willingness to help family members.
We have noted an increase in the number of reports of this type of scam from individuals across Northern Ireland. In each case, a person purporting to be a family member, often a daughter or son, asks for money. Typically, the ‘child’ is short of money or late paying bills, and asks the recipient to transfer money into an account. This is backed by a story that he or she has recently changed their phone or phone number.
In July this year, the Mirror carried a story about a woman from Wolverhampton, who lost the money she had been saving towards a new boiler, when a fraudster pretended to be her son who is in the RAF. Toni Parker, 54, transferred a total of £2,450 to the stranger before realizing she had been scammed.
I love my kids and if they text me in need I will help them, who wouldn’t help their own children? These scammers know this and I think they are purposely targeting mothers because it is our natural instinct to help. The messages were very believable and these scammers are using an emotional connection to catch you off your guard.
Superintendent Pollack has now urged the public to be vigilant when responding to such messages.
Fraudsters will use any means possible to trick people...scammers rely upon the good faith and vulnerability of those they target. Please don’t get caught out. If you get a message of this nature, please take time to make contact, by a reliable means, with your loved one. So don’t enter into a dialogue using the same text or WhatsApp trail.