‘Hi Mum’ scams

In a recent media release, Scamwatch has warned about the rise of “Hi Mum” scams where a phone message is received, supposedly from a family member or friend, claiming that they need help.

This article sheds some light on this scam trend.


Who is Scamwatch?

Scamwatch is run by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). It aims to raise awareness about how to recognise and protect yourself against scams.


What are “Hi Mum” scams?

Also known as “family impersonation” scams, the perpetrator of this type of scam will typically:

  • Claim to be a family member or friend of the intended victim.
  • Claim that they have lost or damaged their phone and are making contact from a new number.
  • Attempt to develop a rapport with the person and establish trust that they are who they claim to be.
  • Ask for money to help with some urgent need such as paying an overdue bill. They may also ask for personal details which could be used to commit other cybercrimes such as identity theft.

Victims are most often contacted through WhatsApp. Some messages will simply begin with “it’s me,” while in other cases the scammers may have contact information and use the name of the person they are impersonating.


The impact on Australians

More than 1,150 Australians fell victim to “Hi Mum” scams in the first seven months of 2022, with total reported losses of $2.6 million.

“Unfortunately, these unscrupulous scammers are targeting women and older Australians, with 82 per cent of family impersonation scams reported by people over the age of 55, accounting for 95 per cent of all reported losses,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.


What to do if you suspect you are the target of a “Hi Mum” scam

“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,” Ms Rickard said.

“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.”

“Above all, never send money without being absolutely sure who you are sending it to,” Ms Rickard said.


Reporting scams

Scams can either be reported to Scamwatch or to ReportCyber which is run by the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

If you have provided personal information, contact IDCARE immediately.


Key takeaways

“Hi Mum” scams are on the rise and are particularly targeting women and older Australians. If you receive a message from an unknown number, from someone claiming to be a family member or friend who has lost their phone, follow the steps and guidance outlined by Scamwatch. If you have already provided a scammer with money or personal information, take the relevant steps to report and recover from the incident.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex cases involving scams and cybercrimes.

Contact us if you require assistance.