An East Hampshire woman left embarrassed and out of pocket by an online scam-artist has shared her experience as a warning to others.
The victim, from Headley, was duped by the so-called ‘Hi Mum’ scam on the mobile phone messaging app WhatsApp.
The scam involves fraudsters posing as family members and exploiting their targets’ emotions to manipulate them into making money transfers.
The victim received a text message purportedly from her daughter, informing her that her phone was broken and to use a new number to contact her via WhatsApp.
Given that such requests for assistance were not uncommon between them, the victim did not immediately suspect any foul play.
Once on WhatsApp, she attempted to call her daughter but was met with a response claiming that her daughter was highly stressed because of an urgent bill payment issue by her bank – again, not an unusual request.
The fraudsters played on the victim’s goodwill by requesting that she cover the bill temporarily until her daughter could resolve the matter in person.
Concerned for her daughter’s well-being, the victim agreed to help and was provided with bank details to transfer the funds, which she did.
Upon realising that she had fallen victim to a scam, the victim reported the incident to her bank. But her chances of recovering the funds are remote.
Posting on the NextDoor website, the victim said she was "embarrassed to share" her experience, but did so to help prevent others being duped.
She said: "All the wording on the exchange could easily have come from my daughter.
"My bank has been notified but they say I will only get my money back if the payee's bank co-operates and I am guessing if it's overseas, that won't happen easily.
"I understand from now researching the 'Hi Mum' scam that this might be changing to target siblings and sons/daughters, so please all be aware and don't get caught off guard as I was."
UK consumers have lost more than £500,000 to the 'hi mum' WhatsApp impersonation fraud so far this year.
This has prompted calls for Meta, which owns WhatsApp as well as Facebook and Instagram, to do more to prevent fraudsters exploiting users.
UK Finance, the industry group that represents the banking sector, said Meta should work with mobile phone networks “to understand the customer numbers being targeted and issue direct warnings to customers about this type of fraud in their apps”.