WhatsApp scam asking parents for money has moved to SMS — how to stay safe

Dark-haired woman looking at smartphone screen in shock.
(Image credit: fizkes/Shutterstock)

A popular scam that started on WhatsApp has resurfaced and is now being used to target parents over text messages.

The scammers behind the "Hi Mum" and "Hi Dad" WhatsApp scam that began in the UK are now using text messages to target new victims according to a report from the DailyMail.

The scam itself preys on parents whose children are heading back to school or are adults living on their own. It begins with a text message from a new number that reads either "Hi Mum" or "Hi Dad" depending on the recipient. From there, the scammers impersonating a parent’s child go on to say that they lost their phone and need some money.

Although this scam began on WhatsApp back in June, Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander UK, has brought to light the fact that it’s making the rounds again but this time over SMS.

In the UK, victims of the Hi Mum/Hi Dad scam have already lost thousands with 1,235 reports made to the fraud and cybercrime center Action Fraud.

Besides saying their phone was lost or damaged, the scammers may also claim they need money urgently to pay a bill. Surprisingly, some of the Hi Mum/Hi Dad scammers have actually requested money from the same victim on multiple occasions until they realized they’ve been scammed.

What makes this scam so successful is its believability. Parents of college students and young adults know that kids often get into financial trouble and come running to mommy or daddy to bail them out of a jam. At the same time, young people have a reputation for being careless with their smartphones despite the fact that they can’t seem to look away from them.

For these reasons, the Hi Mum/Hi Dad scam could certainly make its way across the pond to the U.S. or even to other countries. This is why parents of older children should remain on the lookout for any texts from unknown numbers that claim to be from their kids.

How to spot the ‘Hi Mum’ or ‘Hi Dad’ scam

If you receive a text message from an unknown number claiming to be from your kids or another family member, the first thing you should do is stop and call them using the number listed in your contacts. If they don’t answer, then it may be worth calling the number from the text message but you should wait a bit as many young people rarely if ever answer their phones.

Just like cybercriminals do online, scammers trying to con you over the phone or via text will also try to instill a sense of urgency. If you feel rushed and let your emotions get the better of you, you’re more likely to give into their demands.

For those that do receive a Hi Mum, Hi Dad text message or even end up falling victim to the scam, remember that you should report all instances of fraud to the FTC so that others don’t end up facing a similar fate. 

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.