Fake text message scam targeting parents’ worst fears

Scammers are using distressing text messages to trick worried parents into handing over money.

Action Fraud is warning about a new text message scam that tries to trick parents into sending mobile phone top-up vouchers codes.

The con involves mums and dads getting a text message supposedly from their child, which says they’re in trouble in hospital and are having to use someone else’s phone.

The fraudster sending the spam text plays on the emotions of the victim, who is likely to act quickly without thinking and do as instructed out of panic.

One example message reads:

“Mum i did try and phone from some else phone signal is really bad, there has been a terrible car accident. I’m in the ICU ward in hospital my phone ain’t switching on and needs charging. I’m on this mobile number please make sure you reply to this number, my friend didn’t make it he died before we got to hospital and his sister’s fighting for her life. Mum i had my seatbelt on, i’ve got a head injury but i’m ok. Going into Xray to be seen, please make sure you message me back and don’t phone cause mobile phones aren’t allowed here so please text in case I’m in there. I will go outside and phone you mum its really bad i need you to do me favour before it’s too late, as soon as you get my text please reply by text i need you to do me a favour mum, time is running out and i need you to do something mum”.

After responding, fraudsters have reportedly asked victims to purchase a mobile phone top-up voucher, which can cost from £5 up to £50, and text the code.

Once the scammer has the code they can get it credited to their own mobile phone account or sell it on to make some money.

Evolving scam

Worringly there are other variations of this scam which means even those without children could be duped.

They are usually in the form of a shorter version of a distressing text message, which isn’t necessarily from your child but another loved one like a friend or family member.

One Twitter user posted this one.

What’s scary is these message can easily evolve and can turn into more elaborate schemes which could get you to hand over bank details or other personal information that could see you lose out even more without thinking.

What to do

If you receive one of these text messages stop and think before taking immediate action.

If your child or loved one was in hospital, they would never be forced to use another person’s mobile phone as staff would easily be able to contact you.

Don’t send any voucher code top-ups or money and don’t reply with any personal details or information.

One easy way to check if the text you receive is a scam is to just contact your child or loved one directly on their normal number. Chances are they will pick up their phone or text you back.

If you’re still unsure you might want to call the unrecognised number, or ask for more information and try to get the fraudsters to trip up on their own lies.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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