What is the ‘friend in need’ scam?
The ‘friend in need’ scam (also known as ‘Hi Mum’ or ‘Hi Dad’) is an increasingly popular method of fraud in which a scammer texts from an unknown number, posing as a friend or family member. The scam is particularly effective as it preys on people’s kindness and desire to help their friends and family. These scam messages may come through messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, iMessage or text message (SMS).
Typically, the scammer, posing as a friend or family member, begins the message with ‘Hello Mum’ or ‘Hello Dad’ – sent from an unknown number. They will then tell the recipient they are texting from a new number as their phone was lost or damaged, going on to ask for money to purchase a new phone or claim they need money urgently for another reason, such as to pay a bill.
In the first half of 2022, over £1.5 million was lost to this scam in over 1,000 cases, according to data from Action Fraud.
However, sometimes the scam can also occur when a fraudster hacks someone’s instant messaging account, gaining access to their contacts and sending the request directly from the compromised account – therefore appearing as if the message comes from a known number. The friend’s account is genuine but the message itself is from a scammer. The scammer might ask directly for personal information, money and the recipients’ banking details. The fraudster will then supply details of a bank account for the person to send the payment to with some scammers returning for further demands of money.
Messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp, are being exploited by fraudsters because there is a misconception that you can only receive a message from someone you know. Therefore, when a person gets a message, they are more inclined to trust that this does come from someone they know.
How can you protect yourself and your family?
Unfortunately, scammers are often looking to prey on people’s good nature, therefore it is important to be mindful and vigilant of all unexpected messages.
To protect yourself from this scam, follow the advice from Action Fraud – to take time to stop and think if you are contacted by a number you do not recognise, claiming to be someone you know and requesting financial assistance.
These messages can seem genuine, but scammers will often try to rush and panic you. It’s advised to reach out to the person who appears to be sending the messages directly through another form of communication, to confirm whether it’s them sending the messages and if their request for help is genuine. You could also ask for something that uniquely identifies your friend or family member, such as requesting a voice note.
- Treat all unsolicited calls, emails, texts, and social media messages with caution – take time to stop and think
- Inform us as soon as possible of any security breach or potential breach
- If ever in doubt about whether something is a fraudulent request or genuine call us on 0330 355 0355
- Follow the ABC framework for fraud: Accept nothing, Believe no-one and Confirm everything
- Speak to your friends and family about fraud and how they can also protect themselves
- Consider setting up two-step verification on platforms such as WhatsApp to add more security to your account
- Follow the Take 5 Fraud campaign steps
- Disclose card security details, like your PIN, Internet Banking log in details or card number, over the phone, by email or text message or via a link included in an email or text
- Assume that a text message or phone call is genuine
- Click on links or attachments included in unsolicited emails or text messages
- Be pressured into taking action
Take 5 Fraud campaign steps
- Never disclose card details such as your PIN, card number or Internet Banking Password
- Don’t assume an email or phone call is authentic
- Don’t be pressured or rushed into deciding
- Listen to your instincts
- Stay in control
Report suspected fraud
If you think you may have been a victim of fraud, call us immediately on 0330 355 0355. We're here 8am-6pm weekdays and 10am-4pm weekends for fraud queries. If abroad, call +44 (0)117 9739339.