Police are urging people to be vigilant after a new scam targeting older Australians surfaced.
There have been increasing reports of the “Hi Mum” scam, which involves a text message from an unknown phone number claiming to be from the phone user’s child.
Messages usually tell the phone user that the child has a new phone and instruct them to delete the old number.
Once the conversation starts, the scammer asks the phone user to borrow money or make a payment on their behalf. The request is accompanied by an excuse that they need it and an offer to pay it.
Police say excuses are created to create a sense of urgency so that the victim feels pressure to act quickly.
Cybercrime squad leader, Detective Director Matthew Kraft, said police have seen an alarming increase in the number of reported cases recently.
“Hi Mum scam victims date back to at least October last year overseas, but since May we have seen a significant increase in reporting not only here in NSW, but in jurisdictions across Australia,” he said.
“Victim demographics are mostly over 55, and unfortunately, many parents fall victim simply because they are nice people who care about their children’s well-being.”
Moderator Kraft urged people to be wary of suspicious messages and to ask for clarification or more personal details before proceeding.
“If you receive a suspicious message on your mobile phone, particularly via social media or encrypted messages, contact your relative through an alternative means of communication or call to make sure it is in fact,” he said.
Police estimate that the scam cost Australians more than $2 million in a few short months, a number that may continue to rise.
The Australian Cyber Security Center has recorded a sharp increase in reports of fraudulently obtained cash and personal identification documents by fraudsters, usually from victims over the age of 65.
Victims in New South Wales and Victoria were hardest hit by the “Hello Mom” scam, accounting for half of the reports submitted to law enforcement.
The police warnings come at a time when Australians have lost more money than ever to clever fraudsters. In 2021, Australians lost a record $2 billion through various scams.
Fraudulently obtained funds can be quickly transferred from bank accounts to untraceable cryptocurrency, which means that victims are unlikely to get their money back.
Police are urging anyone who has lost money in scams to contact the bank as soon as possible and report it to the police.