Last week, I gave some advice for our younger residents as they prepare themselves for University after the summer holidays. Now I have some more warnings this week about the scammers who are taking advantage of the summer holidays to swindle parents out of thousands of pounds, using a booming text scam where they pose as their children.
The new “child in need” scam, also known as “hello mum, hello dad”, has shot up over the past six months and is expected to spread further as youngsters start university in September, experts have warned.
As part of the trick, victims receive a message from a random number purporting to be a son or daughter who has lost their phone. Once parents are convinced they are speaking to their child and save the number onto their phone, scammers ask them to send money claiming to need it to pay off debts.
Katherine Hart of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute warned that scammers would be exploiting the current summer holidays while teenagers and young adults are away from home. She says, “It becomes more plausible when the kids are at a festival or away with friends. Mums and dads are on a heightened response when the kids are away from home. The kids tend to use each other’s phones to message their parents or they can be hard to get a hold of.”
But she warns that the scam activity is expected to skyrocket in September when adolescents start a new year of university.
Chris Ainsley of bank Santander, said the scam had evolved and is now happening via traditional SMS or text messaging as well as on WhatsApp. The original scam has become more sophisticated in recent months, with some tricksters asking parents to transfer money to a friend or family member before it is then sent on to the scammer.
Anyone receiving a text they suspect could be from a scammer should ask the suspect personal questions that only their own family members could answer correctly. Ms Hart’s advice is to ask them for confirmation of their middle name or the colour of your car or front door. Don’t forget that scammers may already have personal information from a previous data leak so could know basic details about names or dates of birth of their potential victims. However, it is highly unlikely that scammers will know such family-related personal information about the day-to-day lives of family members.
Craig Mullish, from the City of London Police, Britain's lead force on financial crime, said: “If you receive a message like this from a friend or family member, don’t send any money until you’ve had a chance to contact them and confirm their identity to be genuine. Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.”
If you are worried that something might be a scam, or you want to report a scam, you can contact Citizens Advice scam action service at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/reporting-a-scam/
If you or someone you know is struggling to pay bills or outstanding debts, Citizens Advice may be able to help. Citizens Advice Sefton telephone service is available: For general advice . 0808 278 7841 (freephone) Mon – Fri 9.30am – 4.30pm and text relay for people with hearing impairment: Text relay: 03444 111 445 for people with hearing impairment .The debt number is 0151 318 6407. 9.30 to 4.30 Mon to Fri. Our local website address is- www.https://seftoncab.org.uk/Citizens Advice Lancashire West telephone is available between 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday, & 9.00am and 1.00pm Saturdays on Adviceline 0344 245 1294