Police in Mid Ulster urge the public to be vigilant following reports of fraudulent WhatsApp messages

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Police in Mid Ulster are urging members of the public to be vigilant following recent reports of fraudulent WhatsApp messages.

The scams involve a text or WhatsApp from a person claiming to be a family member, and have the common aim of encouraging the recipient to transfer money.

Superintendent Stephen Murray, said: “We are continuing to see this scam circulating. In each case, a person purporting to be a daughter or son, asks for money. Typically, a family member is short of money or late paying bills, and asks the recipient to transfer money into an account. 

“Recently, a woman in Magherafelt was scammed out of nearly £1,000 following a WhatsApp message from a person claiming to be her son.
"There was also an additional request for over £400 - however, when the woman replied to say she didn't have the money, there were no further messages.  Our enquiries remain ongoing into this particular incident - but we are appealing to members of the public to be aware if a message looks suspicious at all.

“These type of scams are typically backed by a story that he or she has recently changed their phone or phone number so family members are unsuspecting.

“In some of these cases, the victim has been careful enough to check with the relative and therefore realise it’s a scam before departing with any money.  Sadly, however, this isn’t always the case.

“We are advising that if you have older members of your family, talk with them and warn them about this particular type of scam. This is a really important conversation to have.

"Regardless of what the scam is and the different methods employed, a common element shared by scammers is they will go to great lengths to trick people and take advantage of their vulnerability and good faith.

“Our message is simple – never disclose your personal or banking details to anyone over the phone or online, no matter how convincing they may seem, and never allow an unauthorised person to have access to such details via your computer".

For further 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 then please report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040.  You can also call police on the non-emergency number 101.

You can also find out more about these type of scams on our website at: https://www.psni.police.uk/crime/fraud/scam-cons-tricks-and-fraud/whatsapp-family-impersonation-scam/ 

If you receive a suspicious message, whether by email, website or text message you can take the following actions:
·         Email – if you feel 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 which you think is fake, you can report it here Report a suspicious website - https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/section/about-this-website/report-scam-website
·         Text message – Report suspicious text messages for free to 7726.  Your provider can investigate the text and take action if found to be fraudulent.

Keeping People Safe