Police are urging people to be wary after the emergence of a new scam targeting older Australians.
There have been increasing reports of the ‘Hi Mum’ scam, which involves a text message from an unknown phone number that claims to be from the child of the phone user.
The messages typically tell the phone user that the child has a new phone and directs them to delete the old number.
Once conversation has been engaged, the scammer then asks the phone user to borrow money or make a payment on their behalf. The request is accompanied by an excuse as to why they need it and an offer to pay it back.
Police say the excuses are generated to create a sense of urgency so the victim feels pressured to act quickly.
Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft, said police had seen an alarming increase in the number of reported instances recently.
“Victims of the ‘Hi Mum’ scam date back to at least October last year overseas, but since May, we’ve seen a significant increase in reports not just here in NSW, but jurisdictions across Australia,” he said.
“The demographic of victims is predominantly aged over 55, and sadly, many parents are falling victim because they’re simply nice people who are concerned for their child’s welfare.”
Superintendent Craft urged people to be cautious of suspicious messages and to ask for clarification or further personal details before proceeding.
“If you receive a suspicious message on your mobile, particularly through social media or encrypted messaging, reach out to your relative by an alternative method of communication or call to confirm it is in fact them,” he said.
Police estimate the scam has cost Australians more than $2m in a few short months, a figure which could continue to climb.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has recorded a sharp increase in reports of cash and personal identity documents being fraudulently obtained by scammers since May, usually from victims aged over 65 years old.
Victims in NSW and Victoria have been the most impacted by the ‘Hi Mum’ scam, accounting for half of the reports made to law enforcement.
Police warnings come as Australians have lost more money than ever to wily scammers. In 2021, Australians lost a record $2bn through various scams.
Fraudulently obtained money can be quickly moved from bank accounts into untraceable cryptocurrency, which means victims are unlikely to get their money back.
Police urge anyone who has lost money to scams to contact their bank as soon as possible and report the matter to police.