NSW Police Cybercrime Squad detectives are reminding mobile phone users to remain vigilant, after a spike in reports by victims of an emerging scam dubbed the ‘Hi Mum’ scam.
The scam involves the offender sending a text message from an unknown mobile phone number to a person on a messaging application claiming to be their son or daughter.
The message will state they’ve lost their phone, telling the victim they’re sending from their new number and to delete the old number.
Once the victim engages in conversation, the offender will ask to borrow money or have a payment made on their behalf. This will generally include an excuse as to why they need it – for example, unavailability of online banking on the new device – and an offer to pay it back.
The offender will usually state it’s a matter of urgency before providing details for the payment.
Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft, said the scam is becoming increasingly costly for parents around the world, including Australia.
“Victims of the ‘Hi Mum’ scam date back to at least October last year overseas, but since May, we’ve seen a significant increase in reports not just here in NSW, but jurisdictions across Australia,” Det Supt Craft said.
“We encourage people to look out for suspicious behaviours demonstrated by these scammers; including their failure to personalise any communication and excuses as to why they can’t speak on the phone.
“If you receive a suspicious message on your mobile, particularly through social media or encrypted messaging, reach out to your relative by an alternative method of communication or call to confirm it is in fact them.
“In just a matter of months, the losses accumulated by Australian victims of this scam easily surpasses $2 million when you consider the significant underreporting by victims of cybercrime generally.
“The demographic of victims is predominately aged over 55, and sadly, many parents are falling victim because they’re simply nice people who are concerned for their child’s welfare,” Det Supt Craft said.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has recorded a steep increase in the amount of cash and personal identity documents fraudulently obtained by the scam since May, most notably on those aged 65 and above.
Victims in NSW and Victoria account for just over half of all ‘Hi Mum’ scam reports made to Australian law enforcement bodies, followed by Western Australia and Queensland.
Fraudulently obtained funds are usually quickly moved from bank accounts into cryptocurrency and victims are unlikely to get their money back, NSW Police said in a statement.
People who have lost money to a scam should contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible and report the matter to police.
For more advice on how to avoid scams and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of a scam, visit the Scamwatch website.
Anyone with information in relation to cybercrimes and scams is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.