Detectives from the Cybercrime Squad are investigating a series of reports of an emerging text messaging scam targeting parents, by pretending to be a child in need of financial help.
The victim will receive a WhatsApp or text message from an offender on an unknown number impersonating their children, along the lines of “Hi mum, I’ve changed provider/lost/broken my phone – I’m temporarily using this number for now”.
The conversation will develop, before the offender deceives the victim and requests money for some kind of emergency.
These emergencies can include payments that need to be made that day, money to purchase a new phone, or money to pay an urgent bill.
The offenders will say they cannot access their own money as they have been locked out of their own online banking account after getting the new phone.
Often the offender will request a photo of a credit card, or a transfer to a bank account that they will purport to be using while they can’t access their normal bank account.
Once one transfer has been made, the offender will frequently request another sum of money.
Detectives have identified at least 25 victims believed to be linked to a series of offending, dating back to January this year. It is believed the scam originated in Europe, before making its way to Australia.
It appears most offenders are located offshore and are not known to the victims.
Investigators are warning anyone who receives a message of this kind from a number they don’t recognise to be wary and are urging anyone with information to come forward.
If you receive a request of this nature asking for money, call your friend to verify the authenticity of the request, and report any spam phone numbers. Be wary of any phone numbers not already saved in your contacts and try giving the original number of the person supposedly making contact a call.
If you have been the victim of cybercrime, speak to police if you have concerns about a matter, or use online forums such as ReportCyber and the ESafety Commissioner which will assess the report and provide them to police.
Anyone with knowledge of these incidents and those responsible is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppers.com.auExternal Link
Quotes attributable to Detective Sergeant John Cheyne, Cybercrime Squad:
“A scam like this really pulls on the 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.
“If ever you receive a message from an unknown number asking for money, it’s always worth asking for some kind of verification.
“Give the number a call and ask them to prove who they say they are, or call the original number you have saved in your contacts for the person. Alternatively, you could ask them to send a voice note to verify who they are.
“If they can’t prove who they are or aren’t willing to, don’t transfer the money.
“If you’ve been victim to this scam, call your bank immediately and let them know, before reporting the matter via ReportCyber.
“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.
“I want to assure the community that Victoria Police is committed to investigating these matters and holding offenders to account.
“We encourage anyone who has been subject to a scam such as this to speak to police.”