Last month, Melbourne man Sam Peluso’s wife received a message from her son telling her he had a new number after dropping his phone down the toilet.
She didn’t think much of it. Her son had previously dropped a phone down the drain so this latest incident didn’t seem out of character.
“The fact that he dropped his phone in the toilet sort of convinced us that it might have been him. That’s his sort of style,” Peluso told 7NEWS.com.au.
Watch the latest News on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
There was just one problem – the person at the other end of the phone wasn’t his son.
Almost caught out
When Peluso’s wife first got the message, there was nothing that rang alarm bells.
Her ‘son’ – who was messaging from an Australian number – said he had dropped his phone down the toilet, and had to get a new phone and number, Peluso said.
Peluso’s ‘son’ then asked for $4095 to help pay some of his bills.
“(My wife) got back to him and asked him, ‘well how do we pay this money and where do we pay to?’”
The person on the other end provided a Bankwest BSB and account number.
But before she sent any money, she rang her husband, who then told her to wait until he got home before she did anything.
In the meantime, the pair also tried to reach their son, but were unsuccessful.
“We thought it was our son. We weren’t too sure,” Peluso said.
Your cookie settings are preventing this third party content from displaying.
If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .
Then red flags began to appear.
The couple asked their ‘son’ for the name on the account.
“I said (to my wife) tell this guy that the bank wants bank details and the name of the account,” Peluso said.
“He came back with the bank name and a girl’s name – Michelle,” Peluso said, adding the would-be scammer harassed the couple, checking to see if the funds had been sent.
While exchanging more messages with the scammer, the couple had heard from their son, who told them to report the messages to police.
A few days later, they deleted the messages, thankful they weren’t caught out.
“We were thinking maybe it’s somebody that knows him, because what surprised me is that the text came through from a mobile number,” Peluso said.
“Usually it’s either a private number or something you can’t trace too easily.”
“(My wife) almost believed it.”
It’s in the details
NSW mum of two Janine Angel received the same scam message on WhatsApp just a few weeks ago.
While she initially thought the message could have been genuine, she followed up with a question to the would-be scammer.
“I replied and said ‘is this Lucy or Daniel?’ And then they said, ‘it’s Lucy mum’,” Angel told 7NEWS.com.au.
One small detail then gave it all away.
“I could just tell then it wasn’t the right tone.
“Some of the things that she hadn’t put on there … she hadn’t got any kisses on there, which she always would do and just the way that (the messages) were worded.”
After alarm bells rang, Angel called her daughter to confirm whether she’d sent the messages and realised it was a scam.
“And that was it. It was such a short space of time.”
Angel then stopped replying, reported the messages to WhatsApp and deleted them off her phone.
She’s sharing her experience in hopes other people will be aware of scam messages going around.
“Just to be very careful,” she said.
‘Mum and dad scam’
The scam the Pelusos almost fell for is known as the “mum and dad scam” – and it’s becoming more prevalent.
It works like this: A would-be scammer will contact victims through WhatsApp or text message, pretending to be their child.
“Hi mum, my other phone crashed. But this is my temporary phone. You can save this one. Message me if you’ve seen this,” a ‘mum and dad scam’ message might read, according to Scamwatch.
Scammers may claim their phone was lost, dropped or damaged, and they are using this new number until the old one is fixed.
“Scammers may ask victims for money to help with bill payment or money for a new phone,” an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) spokesperson said.
Since January, the ACCC’s Scamwatch has received more than 460 reports related to the “mum and dad scams”.
About a third of those reported a total financial loss of more than $2m, an ACCC spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au.
To protect yourself, the ACCC says people should be suspicious of messages claiming to be a contact that you have a different phone number or social media profile for.
In the case of this scam, the ACCC recommends people “message the original number or social media profile for the contact to confirm they have lost their phone or changed profile”.
“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,” an ACCC spokesperson said.
As for Peluso and his wife, they’re also taking steps.
They’ve set up a pin system with their son where they confirm each other’s identities with a code only they know.
They also refuse to answer messages or pick up calls from unknown numbers.
“We all need to take control of our own security, be cautious and double check requests for money or confidential information,” Peluso said.