The growing WhatsApp scam that has cost Aussies $2.3m in 2022

·News Reporter
·3-min read

A convincing WhatsApp scam where criminals pretend to be the recipient's son or daughter has cost Aussies a whopping $2.3 million so far this year.

New figures revealed exclusively to Yahoo News Australia show 625 reports of ‘Mum and Dad’ scams have been made to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) since January 1.

“Typically these sorts of scams involve a scammer pretending to be in distress and under threat from something in the big, bad world,” Dr Suelette Dreyfus, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, told Yahoo News Australia.

She says scammers succeed because they’re good at manipulating our good intentions.

A mobile phone (left) and the message from Bev (right)
Sydney woman Bev nearly fell for the 'Mum and Dad' scam. Source; AAP/Nextdoor

“Most of us want to help when we see someone in need, such as a child who wants help.

“The danger with responding to these scams is you become engaged in the storyline presented, the plot thickens and before long you feel like you can’t exit. That’s exactly where the online scammer wants you.”

Unfortunately, of those that reported a ‘Mum and Dad’ scam in the first six and a half months of this year, almost a third of victims fell for the ruse.

According to the ACCC, 197 noted a financial loss with total losses across the country equalling more than $2.3 million.

Sydney woman warns 'beware everyone’

One Sydney woman has taken to social media with a warning to “beware” after she nearly fell for a ‘mum and dad’ scam.

“I had a message on WhatsApp supposedly from my child saying her phone was broken and to save the number,” Bev from Clovelly in the city’s east wrote online.

“I responded that it was not her mum, gave my first name and checked she was ok.”

After guessing that it was a friend’s daughter, the person on the other end of the text agreed.

It was then that they asked for money.

“I received another message asking for help and a request to deposit money into an account.

“I asked for more details and kept being told she was unable to talk. I was worried she wasn’t ok and eventually got hold of her.

“Fortunately I did not deposit the funds in.

“It was a scam.”

While Bev has now blocked the number, she’s urging others to be wary.

ACCC advice on dealing with likely scams

“Be suspicious” is the number one rule from the ACCC, especially of communications claiming to be contacts you have a different phone number or social media profile for.

The next step is to do a bit of digging yourself.

“Message the original number or social media profile for the contact to confirm they have lost their phone or changed profile,” a spokesperson for the ACCC told Yahoo News Australia..

“If [you’re] unable to make contact with their original phone number or profile, verify that new communications of this sort are legitimate via a second factor, such as email if a text message comes through.”

And if you fall for the scam, Dr Dreyfus says you must act fast.

“The scammers can be very persistent and persuasive so if you do realise [that] you’ve given away access, act quickly, and change your passwords.”

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