Lancaster pensioner duped by WhatsApp scammer posing as her daughter who 'desperately' needed £8,500
A Lancaster woman has told of how her 'distraught' 69-year-old mother lost £8,500 in a cruel and convincing scam after being duped by fraudsters on WhatsApp.
The victim, who has worked for the NHS all her life and who wishes to remain anonymous, was tricked by criminals posing as her youngest daughter on the messaging service. They supplied a bank account number and asked for money to be transferred.
The victim initially transferred £2,500, followed by two further payments of £3,000. Only after the money was paid the family realised that their mother had been tricked.
The believable scam began with a text stating: "Hi mum, it's me. My phone isn't turning on anymore so had to get a new one. You can reach me on this number from now on." The scammer then wasted no time trying to get some money saying: "Just got off the phone with the bank and they say I can't pay a bill because I can't receive a text on my old number ....Could you help me out by paying a bill for me? I'll send it straight back."
The victim - a mother-of-three who in the past has volunteered at St John's Hospice in Lancaster, was targeted yesterday (Wednesday). She said she felt "mortified and heartbroken" when she realised she had been duped.
One of the daughters contacted the Lancaster Guardian to warn others of the despicable act and to save someone else the heartache of what her horrified mum is having to go through.
She said: "My mum is absolutely distraught. She feels like a fool and is angry that she's been duped in this way. My mum has a heart of gold and is always helping her family and friends - especially her children who are away from home. Because of her kind nature, the con artists were able to scam £8,500 out of her. They relied upon her good faith and vulnerability. Not only upset, but my mum now feels embarassed and stupid. The messages were written just as my sister would text so there was no reason to believe it wasn't her. Alarm bells only began to rang when she had transferred the last installment of £3,000."
She added: "My mum is currently looking after my 96-year-old grandpa and her phone is her lifeline as she's having to isolate due to Covid. I just want to warn people not to trust anyone. I know some people will say 'they would never fall for it', but people are losing their hard-earned money and by speaking out I want to try and raise awareness.
"If you are asked for money over a text message, never trust anyone. My mum has lost thousands and I don't want anyone else to go through the nightmare ordeal that she's having to go through just weeks before Christmas."
The family has contacted the police and the banks. Police investigations are ongoing into the incident.
Meanwhile, Kathryn Harnett, Policy Manager at WhatsApp, said: “WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people of the other ways they can keep their accounts safe and remain vigilant to the threat of scammers.
“We advise all users never to share their six-digit PIN code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security. And, if you receive a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it’s from), calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.”