WhatsApp warning as 'friend in need' scam claims £1.5million from victims

4 August 2022, 15:19

WhatsApp users are being warned to stay vigilant
WhatsApp users are being warned to stay vigilant. Picture: Getty/Action Fraud
Alice Dear

By Alice Dear

Police and experts at Action Fraud are telling the billions of WhatsApp users to be extra vigilant.

A terrifying WhatsApp scam known as the 'friend in need' scam has claimed £1.5million from victims.

This shocking figure comes from Action Fraud UK, who said that the specific con was reported to them 1,235 times between February and June this year.

The scammers steal money by sending a WhatsApp text to someone claiming to be one of their friends or family members.

The text will often start with "hi mum/dad it's me" and will come from an unknown number.

The WhatsApp scam is called 'friend in need' because the scammers claim to be loved ones asking for money
The WhatsApp scam is called 'friend in need' because the scammers claim to be loved ones asking for money. Picture: Getty

The scammers use several excuses to explain why they are texting from an unknown number, mostly that they are using a friend's phone or that they have a new number.

The criminals then, while pretending to be someone's child, parent, friend or partner, attempt to steal money from you by creating a false crisis they need money urgently for.

With over £1million stolen already, people are being told to directly contact someone over the phone or in person to verify if their WhatsApp request is genuine or not.

Once you confirm that the message has not come from your friend or family member, you should report the message on WhatsApp and block the number.

Detective Chief Inspector Craig Mullish, of the City of London Police explains: "If you receive a message like this from a friend or family member, don’t send any money until you’ve had a chance to call them and confirm their identity."

He adds: "Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe."

What should I do to prevent fraud?

Action Fraud advises that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from fraud:

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you
  • Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040

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