Superintendent Gerard Pollack said the fraudsters’ scams were “despicable acts” that took advantage of people’s willingness to help family members
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Police are urging people to be vigilant after a woman was scammed into paying £1,700 to the account of a fraudster pretending to be a family member.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have said they have noticed an increase in the number of reports of scam text and WhatsApp messages which purport to be from a family member in need of money.
A fraudulent message would typically begin by claiming the family member had changed their phone number.
Superintendent Gerard Pollack said the fraudsters’ scams were “despicable acts” that took advantage of people’s willingness to help family members.
“We have noted an increase in the number of reports of this type of scam from individuals across Northern Ireland, Superintendent Pollack said.
“In each case, a person purporting to be a family member, often a daughter or son, asks for money.
“Typically, the ‘child’ is short of money or late paying bills, and asks the recipient to transfer money into an account. This is backed by a story that he or she has recently changed their phone or phone number.”
Earlier this year we reported on Toni Parker, 54, from Wolverhampton, falling victim to a scam and losing a total £2,450 – money she had been saving for a new boiler.
The mum-of-four was targeted on July 9, when she received a message on the popular app that read “Hi mum”, leading her to believe it was her eldest child who is serving in the RAF.
She said her ‘son’ told her he had got a new number after dropping his phone down the toilet.
Toni received the first message at around 8.20am while she was packing for a trip to Cornwall, with the con artist asking to borrow money after some initial chit chat.
Toni said she questioned why she couldn’t send the money directly to his normal account but was told he had no internet banking due to his broken phone.
“They were very convincing,” she admitted.
“I love my kids and if they text me in need I will help them, who wouldn’t help their own children?
“These scammers know this and I think they are purposely targeting mothers because it is our natural instinct to help.”
Toni added: “The messages were very believable and these scammers are using an emotional connection to catch you off your guard.”
She sent the money, but later told her younger son about the messages while she and her husband Doug were travelling to Cornwall.
The 17-year-old quickly became concerned it was a scam.
When Toni checked, the WhatsApp messages had disappeared and she immediately called her bank.
She has banked with Halifax for 26 years but said she was angry and frustrated by its lack of help and empathy.
“I feel really let down by their response,” she continued.
The bank account Toni paid into was “emptied within minutes” so she was told there was no way to reverse the payment or trace it, she claims.
Toni posted online to warn others and was shocked when a couple just streets away from her home contacted her to say they had fallen victim to the same scam.
Superintendent Pollack has now urged the public to be prudent when it comes to responding to such messages, Belfast Live reported.
“In some of these cases the victim has been prudent enough to check with the relative and therefore realise it’s a scam before departing with any money. Sadly, however, this isn’t always the case.
“Fraudsters will use any means possible to trick people. While scams may come in all shapes and sizes, they have one thing in common – scammers rely upon the good faith and vulnerability of those they target.
“Hard-earned savings can easily be gone in a flash and, with it, one’s confidence.
“Please don’t get caught out. If you get a message of this nature, please take time to make contact, by a reliable means, with your loved one. So don’t enter into a dialogue using the same text or WhatsApp trail.”