It’s a fact of life that small businesses and sole traders are prone to being targeted by scammers. The Federal Government’s Scamwatch service is urging the public to be wary of phone messages from a family member or friend claiming they need help, following a significant rise in “Hi Mum” scams.
More than 1,150 Australians fell victim to the so-called “Hi Mum” scam in the first seven months of this year, with total reported losses of $2.6 million.
Known as “Hi Mum” or “family impersonation” scams, victims are contacted – most often through WhatsApp – by a scammer posing as a family member or friend.
The scammer will claim they have lost or damaged their phone and are making contact from a new number. Then, once they have developed a rapport with their target, the scammer will ask for personal information such as photos for their social media profile or money to help urgently pay a bill, contractor or replace the phone.
These requests continue the ruse of a lost or broken phone with the justification that the funds are needed because they can’t access their online banking temporarily.
Some messages will simply say “it’s me,” while in other cases the scammers appear to have contact information and use the name of the person they are impersonating.
Scamwatch is urging people who receive suspicious messages from a number they don’t recognise, to independently verify the contact.