‘Friends and family’ WhatsApp and text scams — how to spot the signs

18 January 2023

4 min read

Not only do fraudsters use emails and calls to try and scam you out of your money, they’ll also use text messages and popular messaging services, like WhatsApp.

There’s a particular type of WhatsApp and text scam that’s circulating, known as a ‘friends and family’ scam. It involves criminals messaging victims, pretending to be a family member or friend — sometimes, they’ll even have a photo of the family member or friend in their profile picture if it’s on WhatsApp.

They’ll start the conversation with something like “Hi Mum” or “Hi Dad”.

They’ll then say they’re messaging you from a new number because something’s happened to their phone. It’s likely they’ll send over their bank details, and request money to help them pay for a replacement phone, or claim they need money to pay an urgent bill.

If you receive a message like this, do not send any money. It’s almost certainly a scam.

The fraudster may also:

  • Ask you to send over photos of your family members or friends, and go on to target other people you’re close to
  • Contact you via your work mobile number
  • Send a message via text initially, and ask you to keep the conversation going on WhatsApp.

Do not be fooled...

If you ever receive this type of message, it’s important that you:

  • Call your family member or friend’s original number, and speak to them so you can confirm whether the message is genuine or not
  • Report the WhatsApp user within the app and block their number once you confirm it’s a scam. If you received the message by text, you can report it to OFCOM by forwarding it to 7726.

If you do not send the money over, the fraudster may keep messaging you. They might try and make small talk to convince you that they’re genuine. Do not be fooled, it’s likely that this is all part of the act.

Between 3 February and 21 June last year alone, this type of scam was reported to Action Fraud 1,235 times, costing users £1.5 million.

How to keep yourself safe

Whenever anyone asks you to send over money or your personal information, whether it’s through a message, email, or phone call, we recommend following the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign:

Stop: taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

Challenge: could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam, and report to Action Fraud.

Need to report a scam? Call 159

When you call 159, you’ll be redirected to a service that connects you to your bank so you can report scams or suspected fraudulent activity.

Find out when you should call 159

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