Norfolk families have been hit by a scam tricking parents into thinking their children are in trouble and need a cash transfer.

Trading standards are warning of a recent pick-up in fake "Hi mum" and "Hi dad" messages.

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Thousands of people are thought to have been targeted across the UK, including the mother of BBC football commentator Jacqui Oatley and a woman from Dorset who was duped out of nearly £10,000.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has issued a warning after over £1.5m was stolen from victims in less than six months.

People in Norfolk have also reported receiving messages pretending to be their child, usually leading with a text beginning with ‘Hi mum’ followed by an explanation of why their son or daughter needs money to tide them over.

“We are warning residents to be aware of WhatsApp messages and have seen reports of residents supposedly from a ‘family member’ asking to send money. The messages often state that the family member is in trouble and needs the money urgently.”

Here’s how this scam works:

  • A fraudster pretending to be a family member, often a daughter or son, starts a believable conversation with the recipient.
  • They will say they are messaging from a new number as their phone was lost or damaged.
  • Typically, the ‘child’ is short of money or is late paying bills, and asks the recipient to transfer money into an account.

In some cases, the victim has been careful enough to check with the relative and has realised it’s a scam before parting with any money. However, this isn’t always the case.

Examples of WhatsApp scam messages

Real-life examples of WhatsApp scam messages show how the fraudster attempts to move the conversation on once the intended victim has responded.

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Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander UK, said: “It's picked up again in the last month where we're not just seeing it through WhatsApp but on 'traditional' SMS or text messages.”

With students heading to university this autumn, parents could be more susceptible to fake requests for money from fraudsters pretending to be their children, he added.

How to avoid WhatsApp family impersonation scams

“Hey mum, it’s me...” is a very believable message to receive for many people, but if you’re contacted unexpectedly by a number you don’t recognise and they start requesting money - keep calm.

  • The scammer will try to convince you or pressurise you to pay quickly, but it is important to stop and think as it could protect you and your money.
  • Call the original number you have saved for that person to verify that you are messaging a family member.
  • Does the message sound like your family member? Look at the tone and language they’ve used in their messages. If you’re still in doubt, ask a question that only your family member could answer.

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How to report scam messages

If you have any concerns about unsolicited calls, emails or letters then report it on Action Fraud’s website or by phoning 0300 123 2040. You can also call police on the non-emergency number 101.

You can report messages received to Norfolk Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on freephone 0808 223 1133.

If you receive a suspicious message, whether by email, website or text message, send it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Services at