May 18, 2022

PSNI warns against scammers on messaging apps

Police are urging residents of Derry to speak to older family members following an increase in phishing text messages, phone calls and Whatsapp messages.

The scams usually involve a WhatsApp message, but sometimes an SMS or phone call, from someone claiming to be a family member, and have the common goal of encouraging the recipient to transfer money.

The renewed warning comes after numerous new reports received of casualties across all districts in Northern Ireland. Although anyone can be a victim of scams, we find that this type of scam targets the elderly in particular.

Superintendent Gerard Pollock, Chairman of the ScamwiseNI Partnership, said: “We are noticing more and more reports in recent months of this type of scam from individuals across Northern Ireland.

“In each case, a person claiming to be a family member, often a daughter or son, asks for money. Typically, the “child” runs out of money or pays late bills and asks the recipient to transfer money to an account. This is backed up by a story that he or she recently changed their phone or phone number.

The above are sample screenshots of how a scam can take place on messaging services such as WhatsApp

“It is a despicable act, which takes advantage of a person’s willingness to help loved ones who may be far from home.

“In some of these cases, the victim was careful enough to check with the parent and therefore realized it was a scam before walking away with the money. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Just last week a victim lost £6,000 after receiving one of these messages.

“It’s really important that if you have older family members that you speak with them and let them know about this particular type of scam. This is a really important conversation to have.

Superintendent Pollock continued: ‘The fraudsters will try anything to deceive people. Scams can come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common: scammers rely on the good faith and vulnerability of those they target. Hard-earned savings can easily disappear in a flash, and with them, confidence.

“Please don’t get caught. If you receive a message, contact your son or daughter on their usual number. Do not enter into a text or WhatsApp conversation with the scammers. Identify it. Stop that.”

For more advice and information, visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni. If you have any concerns about unsolicited calls, emails or letters, please report it to Action Fraud via their website. www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. You can also call the police on the non-emergency number 101.

If you receive a suspicious message, be it via email, website, or text message, you can do the following.

Email – if you are unsure about an email you have received, you can forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Services at report@phishing.gov.uk

Website – If you have come across a website that you think is fake, you can report it here to: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/section/about-this-website/report-scam-website

Text Message – Report suspicious text messages to 7726 for free. Your provider can investigate the text and take action if it turns out to be fraudulent.