By John Carney
A PHISHING scam is using messaging service WhatsApp to con victims into believing they are speaking with a family member.
The scam usually involves a WhatsApp message, but can also be a text message or even a phone call, from someone claiming to be a relative. The messages aim to get the recipient to transfer money to the scammer.
A local Kinawley woman told how a scammer pretending to be her daughter tried to persuade her to send money.
“The [WhatsApp] message said that my daughter’s online banking had been blocked and if I could send her some money instead. It said she had a new [mobile] number now as it had been blocked too and to delete her old one,” the woman explained.
“The next message told me to send the money online straightaway. I was so worried that I never thought it wasn’t real. It was only when I got my husband to call my daughter [on her mobile] that I realised it was a scam. Luckily, I didn’t give any bank details.
“I was sent around four messages. They used the word ‘mum’ in some of the messages and my daughter would never call me that. But when it said that she was stressed I started to worry that something was wrong.”
Police experts previously warned of the scam in January after receiving increased reports of victims across the North. They said while anyone can fall victim to it, they had found victims were mostly older people.
“A lot of people like me wouldn’t even think that it’s a scam – you never think it will ever happen to you,” the Kinawley woman said. “I just thought my daughter was in trouble and I wanted to help her out. Hopefully, this will stop someone else from getting caught [in] the same way.”
The PSNI urged older people to be particularly aware of the scam and urged the public to talk to older family members about its dangers.
“We are noticing more and more reports in recent months of this type of scam from individuals across Northern Ireland,” Superintendent Gerard Pollock, chairman of ScamwiseNI, said earlier this year.
“In each case, a person purporting to be a family member, often a daughter or son, asks for money. Typically, the ‘child’ is short of money or late paying bills, and asks the recipient to transfer money into an account. This is backed by a story that he or she has recently changed their phone or phone number.
“It’s a despicable act, which takes advantage of a person’s willingness to help out loved ones who are perhaps away from home.”
For further advice and information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni.
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