‘Cruel’ scams ripping off Britons appear to come from friends’ or family numbers

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Criminals are increasingly turning to Texts and WhatsApp as their weapon of choice by impersonating family members or friends who are in difficulty.

There has been an increasing number of reports of ‘Friend in need’ scams in recent months.

Scammers send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money, or a six-digit PIN number.

The messages are sent from the compromised accounts of your friends, so they look as if they’re coming from someone you know, or from an unknown number claiming to be a friend who has lost their phone or been “locked out” of their account.

These kinds of scams are particularly cruel as they prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family.

Do you have a question for our Scam Watch experts? Please email [email protected] and include the word “scam watch” in the subject line. Unfortunately, we can’t respond to every email.

Examples of the “friend in need schemes” we have seen include:

  • A scammer who posed as a friend-in-need saying they were stuck abroad and had to find hundreds of pounds to get home. When the person said they were unable to help they were blocked.
  • A parent who realised that a scammer was posing as their son asking for money via WhatsApp. Luckily, they called their son to check and realised it was a scam.
  • A parent who received a WhatsApp message supposedly from their daughter saying they’d had to change their number. It went on to ask for help paying a bill, but the parent was suspicious of the request and realised it was a scam.

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How can I protect myself from these scams?

Take Five before you respond.

Make sure your WhatsApp two-step verification is switched on to protect your account; that you’re happy with your privacy settings, and your six-digit pin is secure.

Verify that it really is your friend or family member by calling them directly or asking them to share a voice note.

Only when you’re 100 percent sure the request is from someone you know and trust, should you consider it. If it turns out to be untrue, report It to Action Fraud.

Rip Off Britain: Woman explains how she was scammed

My mum has responded to one of these scams and she sent £500. What can she do about it?

Speak to the bank she banks with. Ask them to consider a refund.

There is a specific code set up for these cases, so the bank should consider all the facts you give them. We would also ask you to report it to Action Fraud.

Scam prevention tip of the week

Check the email address that sent the message. You can do this by clicking on the email address – this will not put you at any risk. The sending email address should come from an email that includes “gov.uk” such as @notifications.service.gov.uk

If you are using a desktop, you can hover the mouse over any active links (but don’t click) to check they make sense – the main NHS website is www.nhs.uk

If you are not sure google NHS and COVID test to find the right link and follow the link from Google.

STOP others being a cybercrime victim by reporting scams and suspicious emails. Forward the scam email to [email protected] Use Rightly to stop fraudsters sharing your data exposing you to scams.

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