WhatsApp ‘Friend in need’ message scam

A convincing WhatsApp scam where criminals pose as a friend or family member in need has cost users almost £50,000 in three months.

New data from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, reveals a new emerging threat where victims are being targeted on WhatsApp by criminals pretending to be someone they know.

Criminals will typically claim to be a family member and will usually begin the conversation with “Hello Mum” or “Hello Dad”. They will say that they are texting from a new mobile number as their phone was lost or damaged and will go on to ask for money to purchase a new phone, or claim that they need money urgently to pay a bill.

The criminal will supply their bank details for payment, with some coming back with further demands for money. Criminals are successful in their approach as they are exploiting the emotional vulnerability of the public in an attempt to deceive victims

How to protect yourself
  • If you receive a similar message that’s asking you for money, speak with the person over the phone to verify they are who they say they are.
  • You can report spam messages or block a sender within WhatsApp. Press and hold on the message bubble, select ‘Report’ and then follow the instructions.

Action Fraud advises that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from fraud.

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at
    actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
How to report
  • You can report suspicious texts you have received but not acted upon, by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad.
  • You can report suspicious emails you have received but not acted upon, by forwarding the original message to report@phishing.gov.uk.
  • If you have provided personal or financial details as a result of a suspicious message, or lost money because of a scam, you should report it to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040

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