Mum loses £3,000 after being targeted by convincing ‘hello mum’ fraud on WhatsApp


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The highly professional scam sees criminals impersonating family members to steal large sums of money, and now one victim is highlighting the issue to prevent others being caught out too

Debbie Payne
The fraud is extremely convincing, and its victims are speaking out to let others know

A woman who lost £3,000 to a WhatsApp scam has spoken out about her experience as a warning to the public to beware of the highly sophisticated fraud.

Criminals are posing as children and family members to trick parents into handing over thousands of pounds on the WhatsApp messaging platform.

The frauds rely on clever psychology and the care that family members have for one another – making them all the more devastating when the truth dawns on the victims.

Official figures show almost £50,000 has already been lost to “hello mum” and “hello dad” frauds – which often begin with a text or phone call.

One woman who was targeted by the scammers is Debbie Payne, 59, a retired teacher who now runs a gardening business with her husband.

The fraud is initiated through messaging and calling platform WhatsApp
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Getty Images)

On November 29, a message popped up on her WhatsApp that appeared to be from her son.

He said he had broken his phone by dropping it down the toilet – something she says is “totally believable for him” – but that he had got a new number.

Her normal wariness against scams was relaxed, as she assumed WhatsApp, as an encrypted messaging platform, would protect its users from scams.

The pair spoke for a while on WhatsApp, including about how tired his legs were, as he is a keen runner – but all the while she was actually having a conversation with a very talented scammer.

Then the criminal asked her for money to pay a couple of bills.

Again, this was believable, as her son’s wife is retraining and money is tight.

Payne transferred him £1,200 from one bank account and around £1,720 from another.

Then the scammer asked for a third payment, and Payne realised he might not be who he said he was.

She asked him for the name of their family dog, which a scammer would not know.

She also tried calling the number, but the person on the other end rejected the call.

But the fraud was not over yet.

The scammers called her, pretending to be the fraud department of her bank – and even appeared to be calling from the number printed on the back of her bank card.

“It was very convincing,” she said. “They used all the right vocabulary and went through the security questions.”

But in the background the scammers had tried to put through another payment, for more than £2,000.

On the phone, the fraudsters asked Payne for her PIN number – which is when she realised the call was all part of the scam, and hung up.

“I was very upset,” she said. “It’s one of those horrible things.”

Fortunately her bank paid back the missing £1,200, and the final payment for £2,000 never cleared – but she is still missing the second payment of £1,720.

“I don’t know if I will get that money back,” she said. “We are fortunate that losing that money is a smack on the wrist for us, but for some people it will be much worse.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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