North Wales cyber police reveal how Flintshire pensioner lost £2,000 in WhatsApp scam
A Flintshire pensioner is one of a growing number of people falling victim to a cruel scam where criminals use the popular messaging app WhatsApp to pose as a family member in need of money.
North Wales Police’s Economic Crime Unit has reported a surge in these scams, which target parents seeking to help their children.
According to reports, scammers pretending to be a family member, often a daughter or son, initiate a believable conversation with the recipient.
They often claim to be messaging from a new number because their phone was lost or damaged.
In the case of the elderly Flintshire victim, who wished to remain anonymous, they received a message on WhatsApp from a number they didn’t recognise.
The sender, a criminal pretending to be the victim’s daughter, explained that they had dropped their phone down the toilet and were using a different number.
They also claimed they couldn’t access their online banking because of the damaged phone and asked the victim to help them pay a deposit for a car.
Believing that their daughter needed their help, the victim transferred £1979.40 to a bank account held by a person they didn’t recognise, but the suspect had been very convincing, claiming that it was a friend’s bank account and the friend was helping them purchase the car.
After the funds were transferred, the victim was asked to send more money.
When they tried to send an additional £987, the victim’s bank identified a possible fraud and declined the transaction.
It was only when the victim contacted their daughter directly that they realized it was a scam.
The bank account the victim paid money into was later found to be a fraudulent account.
As a result of the fraud, the victim became very distressed and upset and said they felt foolish to have been taken in by the criminals.
They were eventually refunded by their bank, but the process was stressful and took several weeks to rectify.
The victim has also become much less trusting and is reluctant to use their mobile phone to communicate.
What to do
Should the worst happen, and you fall victim to fraud, here are the steps to take and who you should contact.
Protect your accounts
If you have given out your bank details, even if no money is missing, contact your bank immediately. They can then act to protect your account and replace your bank cards to prevent fraudulent transactions.
If you have lost money, you may be entitled to a refund from your bank under the Contingency Reimbursement Model. For details visit www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk to see if you can make a claim.
Report a crime
If the fraud is in progress and there are suspects present report direct to North Wales Police on 101 or if it is an emergency dial 999.
Otherwise, you should report the matter to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud are the national reporting centre for fraud across England and Wales.
Check your credit
If your personal information has been disclosed, it is recommended that you check your credit score. This will show you if your details have been used to open credit accounts in your name. It is good practice to check this periodically even if you haven’t been the victim of fraud.
If you are still concerned about identity theft you can join the CIFAS Protective Register. For a small fee you will be made aware if a credit account is opened in your name as additional security checks will be made directly with you. Find out more information at www.cifas.org.uk/pr.
Report suspicious calls, text messages and emails
You can report fraudulent phone calls, text messages and emails directly, even if you haven’t lost any money. This information is used by the National Cyber Security Centre and Ofcom to protect others.
To report a scam call text the word ‘Call’ followed by the suspect number to 7726, which spells out SPAM on your keypad.
To report a scam text forward the message to 7726. More information can be found at www.ofcom.org.uk.
You can report a suspicious email by forwarding the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found at www.ncsc.gov.uk.
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