Victorian Police say they’ve identified “at least” 25 victims of the “Hi Mum” mobile phone scam, issuing a warning about the hoax that’s designed to “pull on the heartstrings”.
Detectives are now investigating the scam, believed to have originated from Europe.
It involves a scammer sending a text message from an unknown mobile phone number to a victim, claiming to be their son or daughter.
As the conversation develops they will say they’ve lost their phone, before making a request for emergency money – generally they’ll say they’ve been locked out of online banking.
Once one transfer has been made, the offender will frequently request another sum of money, police say.
Detectives say they’ve found “at least” 25 victims of the scam believed to be linked to a series of offending dating back to January.
Detective Sergeant John Cheyne, Cybercrime Squad said police believe the true amount of victims are underreported.
“A scam like this really pulls on the heartstrings – a child telling you they’ve lost or broken their phone and are in need of financial support is understandably a situation where parents would react without a second thought,” he says.
“Often, matters of this nature are under reported and that can be for a range of reasons, including fear or embarrassment, and sometimes feeling unsure if an offence has occurred.
“We encourage anyone who has been subject to a scam such as this to speak to police.”
Cheyne urges anyone who receives request for money from an unknown number to ask “for some kind of verification”.
“Give the number a call and ask them to prove who they say they are, or call the original number you have saved in your contacts for the person,” he said.
“Alternatively, you could ask them to send a voice note to verify who they are.
“If they can’t prove who they are or aren’t willing to, don’t transfer the money.
“If you’ve been victim to this scam, call your bank immediately and let them know, before reporting the matter via ReportCyber.
The warning comes after cybercrime experts revealed more than $2 million was stolen under the ‘Hi Mum” scam “in a matter of months”.
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 or online forums such as ReportCyber and the ESafety Commissioner.
For more advice on how to avoid scams, visit the Scamwatch website.
Anyone with information about cybercrimes and scams should contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000.