A man from Melbourne’s north-east has been charged over using the elaborate “Hi Mum” SMS scam to dupe people into handing over a “substantial amount of money”.
The 21-year-old Templestowe man is facing five counts of obtaining property by deception following a six-week investigation, Victoria Police said.
Police allege the man obtained electronic goods in person using false documents, as well as “a substantial amount of money” via the “Hi Mum” scam.
The charges relate to fraudulent transactions that occurred over online marketplaces between December 3 and 7, across Ringwood, Narre Warren, Mill Park, Mitcham and Doncaster East.
Under the “Hi Mum” scam, victims are contacted – most often through WhatsApp – by a scammer posing as their child.
The scammer will often claim they have lost or damaged their phone and are making contact from a new number, or a friend’s phone.
They will then typically ask for money to help them urgently pay for transport, pay for a bill, or replace the phone.
Some messages will simply say “Hi Mum, it’s me,” while in other cases the scammers appear to have detailed information and use the name of the person they are impersonating.
The man has been bailed to appear at Ringwood Magistrates’ Court on July 18.
More than 1150 Australians fell victim to the “Hi Mum” scam in the first seven months of 2022, with total reported losses of $2.6 million, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Women over the age of 55 accounted for more than two-thirds of those who were targeted.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard has warned people to be wary of suspicious messages, particularly on WhatsApp.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Delia Rickard, the commission’s deputy chair, has previously urged anyone who receives a suspicious message, particularly via WhatsApp, to be extremely wary.
“If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be your son, daughter, relative or friend, start by calling them on the number already stored in your phone to confirm if it’s no longer in use. If they pick up – you know it’s a scam,” Rickard said, as the scam gained momentum last year.
“If unable to make contact, you should try a secondary contact method to verify who you’re speaking to. If you still can’t contact your family member or friend, consider asking a personal question a scammer couldn’t know the answer to, so you know the person you are speaking to is who they say they are.”
Police urged the public to learn more about scams being used in the community through the commission’s website.
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