Cybercrime Squad detectives are urging Australians to be on the lookout for the latest ‘Hi Mum’ text message scam after more than $2 million was fleeced from unsuspecting victims.
The scam involves the offender sending a text message from an unknown mobile phone number to the potential victim while falsely claiming to be their son or daughter.
The message states they’ve lost their phone, explaining to the victim that they’re communicating from their new number before prompting them to delete the old number.
Once the victim is drawn into conversation, the scammer will ask to borrow money or have a payment made on their behalf alongside the excuse that they need it due to the unavailability of online banking on the new device.
The offender will usually state it’s a matter of urgency before providing details for the payment and a promise to pay the money back
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has recorded a significant increase in the amount of cash and personal identity documents fraudulently obtained by the ‘Hi Mum’ scam since May, with the majority of victims aged 65 and over.
Once the funds are fraudulently obtained the scammers will often move the money from bank accounts into cryptocurrency, meaning victims are unlikely to get their money back.
Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft said “the demographic of victims is predominately aged over 55, and sadly, many parents are falling victim because they’re simply nice people who are concerned for their child’s welfare.”
“Victims of the ‘Hi Mum’ scam date back to at least October last year overseas, but since May, we’ve seen a significant increase in reports not just here in NSW, but jurisdictions across Australia,” Craft said.
“We encourage people to look out for suspicious behaviours demonstrated by these scammers; including their failure to personalise any communication and excuses as to why they can’t speak on the phone.
“If you receive a suspicious message on your mobile, particularly through social media or encrypted messaging, reach out to your relative by an alternative method of communication or call to confirm it is in fact them.
“In just a matter of months, the losses accumulated by Australian victims of this scam easily surpasses $2 million when you consider the significant underreporting by victims of cybercrime generally.”
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Deputy Chair Delia Rickard has previously warned Australians that “scammers are the most opportunistic of all criminals.”
“Scam activity continues to increase, and last year a record number of Australians lost a record amount of money,” Rickard said.
“They [scammers] pose as charities after a natural disaster, health departments during a pandemic, and love interests every day.
“The true cost of scams is more than a dollar figure as they also cause serious emotional harm to individuals, families, and businesses.”
Those who believe they have fallen victim to a scam are encouraged to contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible and report the matter to police.