This type of scam circulates constantly and claims many victims. You get a message purporting to be from a child or a friend who needs to make an urgent payment, but can't do it themselves. They ask you to help and promise to pay you back quickly. By nature, we all want to help our children and friends, so many people pay without giving it much thought.
This type of scam is called help request fraud or WhatsApp fraud because the fake messages are often sent via WhatsApp, but the request can also come by email or Facebook.
How do you recognize help request fraud?
As part of emergency request fraud, the scammer pretends to be your son or daughter, or a friend who contacts you with an unknown number. The message is always that he or she needs money or to make an urgent payment. Also, this person has a new mobile number, since their old mobile is apparently no longer usable.
Often a short conversation precedes it (Hi mum, how are you?), and the profile picture of your child or friend is "real". The scammer uses a light-hearted tone to inspire your confidence. When you call the number, all you hear is an unrecognizable voice and afterwards you get a message to say that the person cannot call now.
How can you avoid becoming a victim of help request fraud?
- Never pay based on a request you receive through a message.
- First try to reach your son, daughter or friend through another channel (landline phone, email, the "old" mobile ). It will probably then quickly become clear that the request is not coming from them.
- Never transfer money until you have spoken to your child or friend yourself.
Have you already paid money?
- Contact your bank and Card Stop as soon as possible. Because you transferred the amount yourself, it will be impossible for your bank to recover the amount if it has already ended up in the scammer's account, so be very quick.
- File a report with the local police.