WhatsApp scammers impersonate a girl in an attempt to steal her father’s money

A Co Antrim man who was nearly scammed out of almost £2,000 on WhatsApp is warning others to beware.

Colin Jess, 62, from Carrickfergus was targeted by WhatsApp ‘family’ scammers on Sunday night, posing as his daughter Nicola.

The scams usually involve a WhatsApp message, but sometimes an SMS or phone call, from someone claiming to be a family member, and have the common goal of encouraging the recipient to transfer money.

Read more: Co Down woman warned after Facebook account hacked through app

Fortunately, Colin quickly realized the messages weren’t genuine and is now urging others to be on their guard.

The scam started with a message claiming to be from Nicola with a new phone number. But when they asked for an unusual amount of money, Colin realized something was wrong.

He told Belfast Live: “It was weird, but I figured it out pretty quickly, which was a good thing. I can fully understand how other people can be led to believe it’s genuine.

“The first line about how his phone works sounded good because sometimes these things happen and you’re going to buy a new sim card. The main thing was that Nicola hadn’t hung up on the phone for long with his mother, so I was surprised she didn’t mention the water damage issue at this point.

“I started getting suspicious and I have a spare phone here so I said I’d give it to him the next day. The next line, when he said ‘I have another problem too.. .’, that’s when I realized right away that it wasn’t Nicolas.”

The scam started with a message from a new number claiming to be from Nicola with a new phone number

He added: “I played with it for a while because a few big things stood out, firstly the way Nicola would normally text and it wasn’t his language. Secondly the fact that they texted at 6:23 p.m. asking for money to be paid by 7 p.m.

“Also it was a strange sum of money (£1,895.11) and it was said to be refunded tomorrow. Nicola is a single parent with four children so I knew the money wouldn’t lie for that to happen.

“I used to work in banking so I’m very aware of scams and realized it was a game. On this occasion the English was good and they were quite articulate in what they asked, which is not always the case.

“In the end, I ended the messages saying ‘sorry mate, not this time’ and, oddly enough, nothing else came back.”

Colin added: “This problem is widespread at the moment and when Nicola posted the messages on his Facebook page on Sunday evening, a friend came back and said that his mother had received the same message that day and immediately called.

“If the amount had been something like £150 some people might have been fooled, but when they threw that amount of nearly £2,000 I thought ‘no, don’t be silly’.

Colin has now urged others to be on their guard.

“Anything that comes looking for money to pay, don’t. If you get a phone call, hang up the phone, or get a text, call the person you’re asking for money. Don’t just don’t take what’s on the screen in front of you, so be very careful when giving money to someone else.

“I guess this was sent to thousands of people hoping that Serval would bite and then they would go away and you would never hear from them again. As I say, other could very easily have been fooled,” he said.

Nicola, 38, was also shocked to have been drawn into the scam.

She said: “I found out when my dad called me and asked if I was texting myself. I was sitting with my kids in my living room and he said someone was trying to scam him out of two grand. Then he sent me the screenshots and I couldn’t believe it.

“The language they used was not the language I would use, but someone else could very easily have been caught off guard because it was very persuasive.

“Fortunately, my dad is a smart, tech-savvy guy, so he quickly realized something was wrong. If you send this to someone maybe in their 70s or 80s and that he may not be able to quickly detect that it is a scam.”

Police recently warned of a surge in cases in Northern Ireland.

For more tips and information, visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni.

If you have any concerns about unsolicited calls, emails or letters, please report it to Action Fraud via their website. www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phone on 0300 123 2040.

You can also call the police on the non-emergency number 101.

If you receive a suspicious message, whether via email, website, or text message, you can take the following actions:

  • Email – if you are unsure about an email you have received, you can forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Services at report@phishing.gov.uk
  • Website – If you have come across a website that you think is fake, you can report it here Report Suspicious Website – https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/section/about-this-website/report-scam-website
  • Text Message – Report suspicious text messages to 7726 for free. Your provider can investigate the text and take action if it turns out to be fraudulent.

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