Santander is urging people to watch out after man, 80, lost £3,600 in growing scam tactic

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The WhatsApp impersonation scam had surged by more than 2,000 percent by the end of 2021. With this tactic, fraudsters send a message on WhatsApp claiming to be a family member or friend, asking for money through bank transfer.

John Andrews, in his 80s, recently lost £3,600 when a scammer posed as his son over WhatsApp.

He received a message supposedly from his son asking him to pay a bill as a favour because he was having problems setting up his online banking.

John transferred the money from his Santander account and only discovered it was a scammer when he spoke to his son later that day.

Victims who are told they won’t be reimbursed by their banks can take their cases to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

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Criminals have been pretending to be family members who send messages like “Hi Mum” or “Hi Dad” to gain the attention of their victim.

Fraudsters will say they are using a new phone number due to having lost or damaged their previous phone.

As a result of this, the scammers will say they are getting in touch in order to ask for money to purchase a new device.

After this, the fraudsters will give their bank details for payment, with some coming back with further demands for money.

DON’T MISS

While the techniques involved in contacting people could be different, the outcome will be the same: fraudsters are after people’s money and their personal data.

If someone gets a request for money in a message, it’s always worth giving the contact a quick call on the original number they have saved for them.

This is to double check the details before they go ahead, even if it’s a close relative.

Chris Ainsley, Head of Fraud Control at Santander UK, said: “We’ve seen the volume of WhatsApp scams skyrocket over the last few months.

“By preying on people’s relationships with their loved ones, while simultaneously applying immense pressure, these crooks are successfully getting into people’s heads and persuading them to hand over their hard-earned cash.

“Don’t let them win – verify who you’re messaging, before sending money.”

On their website, Santander suggest what people can do if they receive these texts.

It said: “If you receive an unexpected message from a loved one on a number you don’t know or receive a suspicious message, either phone them back to verify that it’s them or ask them a personal question that only they would know the answer to.

“If you think you’ve already been the victim of a WhatsApp scam, report it to your bank straight away.”

How to protect yourself

• Treat any request for money with suspicion, especially if it looks urgent. Even if family members or friends regularly contact you to ask for cash, double check before sending. Call your friend or family member to check the detail – do not use WhatsApp to complete the call.
• Set up the two-step verification option on your messenger app for extra security.
• Make sure your messenger app is up to date and block any numbers that are suspicious.
• Use common sense – if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.

Kathryn Harnett Policy Manager from WhatsApp said: “WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people that we all have a role to play in keeping our accounts safe by remaining 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.”



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