Hi Mum text scam: Nina got a text from her daughter saying her phone was broken. Then she suffered a life-changing blow
A loving mother fell victim to cruel scammers who stole thousands by posing as her daughter, even sending love heart emojis to make the messages more convincing.
Victorian mum Nina Merrilees, who lives near the state’s border with NSW, didn’t think twice before sending $11,600 after receiving a seemingly innocent text from her daughter.
The message that appeared via WhatsApp on Ms Merrilees’ phone read: ‘Hello Mum, my phone is broken, this is my new number’.
Ms Merrilees, a mother of two, said this type of message from her daughter, who lives in New Zealand, was not unusual.
“With our daughter it’s pretty standard practice,” Ms Merrilees told Channel Seven.
“She’s been living overseas for quite a few years and lost her phone, broke her phone… so it was only normal to get a new number from her.”
Victorian mum Nina Merrilees lost $11,600 to a scammer posing as her daughter, who lives in New Zealand (pictured together)
Ms Merrilees sent scammers the money in three installments thinking she was paying for her daughter’s new furniture
The person posing as Ms Merrilees’ daughter asked her to make some urgent payments as the phone was new and did not have a banking app installed.
This again did not strike Ms Merrilees as anything out of the ordinary.
“I’m not sure about other parents, but we regularly make payments for our kids and they always pay us back right away,” she said.
Ms Merrilees also knew her daughter was buying a dog with her husband and assumed the money was for that.
The mother-of-two sent the sums of $3,450, $3,800 and $4,350 using the online payment system Osko, while the person who was the daughter promised to repay everything promptly the next day.
During the text conversation, the scammer kept up the facade by peppering the messages with love heart and smiley face emojis.
Despite sending the money, Ms Merrilees felt uneasy about the transaction and immediately emailed her daughter.
Her daughter immediately called Ms Merrilees using her previous phone number.
“As soon as I saw that number flash up, I just knew I’d been scammed out of $11,600 and just felt physically sick,” Ms Merrilees said.
The scammer peppered the texts with love heart emojis to keep up the facade of Ms Merrilees’ daughter
The ‘Hello Mom’ scam has grown in popularity over the past few years
Ms Merrilees immediately informed her bank of the scam, but has yet to receive any money back.
As a public servant, Ms Merrilees decided to warn others by sharing her story.
“My advice is maybe don’t act straight away,” Ms Merrilees said.
“We thought we were pretty switched on people and it could just happen so easily.”
A Scamwatch spokesperson said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had received more than 9700 reports of ‘Hello Mum’ scams in 2022, totaling losses of almost $7.2 million.
“Victims are contacted – mostly via WhatsApp – by a scammer posing as a family member or friend,” the spokesperson said.
‘They will claim they have lost or damaged their phone and contact from a new temporary number.
‘The scammer will ask for personal information such as money to help pay an urgent bill or replace their phone.’
Scamwatch said anyone who gets a message from a number they don’t recognize should independently verify the contact by reaching out to the person the messenger is pretending to be.
Another way to deter a would-be cheater is to ask a question that only the child will know and insist that it be answered.