Warning over new scam text from 'dad' at Woolworths: 'Send $150'

A young Sydney woman has warned people of a scam text circulating asking the recipient to pay for their loved one's groceries.

Amee Walker posted a screenshot of the scam from Tuesday night in the Everything Sutherland Shire Facebook group, which looked like it was sent by her dad.

"I’m at Woolworths right now, but I brought the wrong card with me," the text message read. "Can you please send me 150, I will pay you back today."

A Sydney woman, Amee Walker, has posted about a scam (pictured on the left) she received from her 'dad' via text message, which referenced Woolies (pictured on the right).
Sydney woman Amee Walker has posted about a scam she received purporting to be from her 'dad' via text message, which referenced Woolies. Source: Getty and Facebook / Everything Sutherland Shire

A set of Westpac bank details were also included in the message.

"I just got this text tonight, Don’t fall for it," Ms Walker said on the Facebook group.

"I called my dad instantly just to make sure he wasn’t in any legitimate dire straights, but it didn’t come from his number at all.

Ms Walker told Yahoo News Australia that she was at home eating dinner when she received the message, and knew "something wasn't right".

"My dad would ring me if he ever needed money, never text," she said.

"If he does ask me to do anything via text he always starts with a greeting and has compassion in his request."

She also noticed the account details looked "odd" and that she couldn't reply to the text message.

What is especially baffling about this latest scam is how it appears to come from a contact of a loved one.

"I don't understand how they achieved this," Ms Walker said. "It's like the text reminders or updates you get from a company with the company name as the contact details."

One of the helpful pieces of advice Ms Walker offered was to "call the person via your contact list (not the phone icon on the message contact) BEFORE sending money."

Scam possibly run by 'Optus data breach scavengers’

Yahoo News Australia spoke to cyber security expert, Dr Suelette Dreyfus, who said making it seem like the message came from her dad was quite "easy to do" and a "clever little attack".

"There are plenty of services and indeed apps that will let you appear to be sending a message from a different phone number," she said.

She also thought Ms Walker did the correct thing by calling.

"I think thats the right response and she hasn't lost $150 quite wisely," Ms Dreyfus said.

"You can even set up your own service."

She said this scam seems to be "spreading around quite widely and quickly."

"It is possible it’s being run by what could be ‘Optus data breach scavengers’," she said, referring to people running scams to exploit people in the wake of last week's data breach.

"They’re not going to get the $1M ransom with one fell swoop, but they might get tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over time in small bits from many people who get fooled by this scam."

"It’s easy to set up this scam but actually the scam is somewhat clever in that it is using a highly personalised approach with a phone number that you trust – so it is likely to dupe a lot of innocent people."

What to look out for with scams like this

Ms Dreyfus said it's important to think about the tone of the message and whether your loved one would send something like that, just as Ms Walker had pointed out.

"Be attuned to subtle nuances in the way the message is worded too – most of us have unique styles of conversation to those we are close to," Ms Dreyfus said.

"Perhaps it's chatty or very succinct, or the trust level is so high you would never expect your dad to say ‘I’ll pay you back’ – because he just would."

"Either way, call and check with them if the message is real – especially at the moment with the Optus breach when more personal information of yours may be out there than you realised."

Facebook users react to the post

Under the Facebook post, some people reported having similar experiences.

"I received exactly the same text for my mum who was apparently at Coles and needed $170," one person said.

"I got it last week, the fact that you couldn’t reply was a good indication it was a scam," another said.

According to Ms Dreyfus, phone scams generally are the most common delivery method in Australia, with 33,403 in the 6 months ending in June this year.

Text message scams follow hot on their heels with 32,700 scams reported in the same period.

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