Scammers are pretending to be children in need of financial help as part of a new messaging scam targeting parents, authorities have warned.
- The scammers invent emergencies to encourage payment, such as needing a new phone or paying an urgent bill
- Detectives have identified at least 25 victims of the scam this year
- Police say these sorts of scams are often under-reported
At least 25 victims of the scam, which originated in Europe, have been detected in Victoria this year.
The victims typically receive a WhatsApp or text message from an unknown number impersonating their child.
According to police, messages often say something along the lines of “Hi mum, I’ve changed provider/lost/broken my phone – I’m temporarily using this number for now.”
The offenders eventually request money from the victim, usually using some kind of emergency as their justification for needing the funds.
Most of the offenders are based overseas and are not known to the victims.
Detective Sergeant John Cheyne from the Cybercrime Squad said such scams pulled on the victim’s 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 said in a statement.
“If ever you receive a message from an unknown number asking for money, it’s always worth asking for some kind of verification.
“If they can’t prove who they are or aren’t willing to, don’t transfer the money.”
A recent report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found scammers stole $1.8 billion from Australians in 2021 — more than double 2020’s total.
Factoring in the estimated number of unreported scams, that figure exceeds $2 billion.
“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,” Sergeant Cheyne said.
“We encourage anyone who has been subject to a scam such as this to speak to police.”
Anyone who has been a victim of the scam should call their bank immediately and report the incident via ReportCyber.