WhatsApp users in Northamptonshire are being urged to be vigilant after criminals scammed victims of more than £1.5 million in the first six months of this year.
Officers from Northamptonshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit has issued the timely reminder following new data from Action Fraud revealed the convincing scam was proving lucrative for fraudsters.
The WhatsApp scam has been reported to Action Fraud 1,235 times between February 3 and June 21 this year, costing users a total of £1.5 million. Whilst in Northamptonshire, there were 14 reports in May and June, with an average loss of £1,750 per victim.
This specific scam usually involves the criminal contacting victims on the popular messaging service, pretending to be a family member and they will typically start the conversation with “Hello Mum or Dad”.
They’ll say that they are texting from a new mobile phone number as their phone has been lost or damaged and then will go on to ask for money to purchase a new device or claim that they need to pay an urgent bill.
The fraudsters will supply their bank details for payment, with some coming back on multiple occasions until the victims realise that they have been scammed and lost, in some cases, substantial amounts of money.
Fraud Protect Officer PC Neil MacKenzie of the Force’s Economic Crime Unit said: “Fraudsters can, and do, send thousands of messages to potential victims every day, and sadly they only have to catch a few people out to make it worth their while.
“We’re working hard to prevent people from being victims of frauds and scams and we would urge everyone to be vigilant of unexpected messages or calls which ask for personal or financial information, or request money.
“As with all fraud attempts, the criminals want you to act immediately and will try to quickly paint a picture which requires urgent action to ensure the victim acts on their emotions rather than take the time to reflect on what is happening.
“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. Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.”
How to protect yourself
STOP. THINK. CALL. If a family member or friend makes an unusual request on WhatsApp, always call the person to confirm their identity.
You can report spam messages or block a sender within WhatsApp. Press and hold on the message bubble, select ‘Report’ and then follow the instructions.
Never share your account’s activation code (that’s the six digit code you receive via SMS)
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
How to report
• You can report suspicious text messages you have received but not acted upon, by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad
• You can report suspicious emails you have received but not acted upon, by forwarding the original message to [email protected]
• If you have provided personal or financial details as a result of a suspicious message, or lost money because of a scam, you should report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040
It’s also important to report all fraud-related incidents to Action Fraud to help build a national picture and help prevent others falling victim to scams.