Pensioner ‘devastated’ after losing £7,000 in ‘clever’ scam tactic – ‘Very convincing’

'I lost £700 to dark web money scammers'

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On The Money to the Masses podcast, presenter Andy Leeks explained how this happens, and how others can protect themselves from being victimised. He said: “The child in need scam happens when fraudsters trick money out of parents by posing as one of their children.

“It’s quite a clever scam in the sense that obviously mum and dad are called mum and dad on lots of people’s phones.

“So, these scammers can fire off as thousands of messages to numbers that they have harvested, with a fairly simple message.

“It’s not particularly sophisticated, it simply says something like, ‘Hey mum or hey dad, I’ve lost my phone. This is my new number can you text me back?’”.

Fraudsters do this in an attempt to start a conversation, gain trust and eventually ask the parents for a money transfer.

The scam usually takes places on WhatsApp, and it can be “very convincing and very easy” to fall victim to if someone has a child that is often losing their phone, using their friend’s phone to contact them, or has just gone on holiday.

To prevent this type of scam, Mr Leeks suggested using voice notes to confirm the identity of people’s children when the number is not a recognised one.

He added: “Or ask them a question like, ‘What’s your middle name?’ Or date of birth, just something as an extra layer of security.

“At the end of the day just make sure the person who is at the other end of the message is the person who you think it is.”

Retired dad, Gerry Ellis, 80 was targeted by these criminals and lost almost £7,000 after fraudsters pretended to be his daughter.

“I have just been caught and lost nearly £7,000. My daughter is going through a divorce at the moment, and it seemed to make sense,” he told The Mirror.

Mr Ellis continued: “The text said she’d changed her number and her bank because of the divorce and asked for money to pay a bill, so I said, ‘Yes, sure.’

“She sent the amount for £2,800. When I asked what it was for, she said it was a medical bill that she did not want to talk about.

“I went online and checked the name and the doctor, and it was a genuine doctor, so I paid it. This happened four times in total in which they asked for help to pay emergency bills.

“My bank initially blocked it, but I called them up to OK it and they did some checks and put it through.

“It’s a very clever scam. On the fifth attempt, I realised it was suspicious. I’m devastated.”

Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime reported that the scam tactic is costing those affected.

Around £50,000 in financial losses with 25 cases being reported between August and October this year.

Criminals are usually pretending to be family members who send messages like “Hi Mum” or “Hi Dad” to gain the attention of their victim.

Often the messages are made to thousands of random numbers on WhatsApp obtained through the dark web, with the scammers effectively trying their luck in the hope that they will target a parent.

The criminals will say they are using a new phone number due to having lost or damaged their previous phone. As a result of this, the scammers will say they are getting in touch in order to ask for money to purchase a new device.

After this, the fraudsters will give their bank details for payment, with some coming back with further demands for money.

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