WhatsApp ‘hi dad’ scam almost costs immunologist Alan Baxter 5k after fraudster poses as his son


How a worried dad was nearly conned out of $5,000 by a cruel but clever WhatsApp scam – but he discovered the truth when fraudsters made ONE simple mistake

  • Immunologist Alan Baxter received a text from someone claiming to be his son
  • The WhatsApp scammer requested a money transfer to pay for a number of bills
  • Mr Baxter reported the scam to ANZ bank but claims the bank refused to act  
  • Data shows Australians have lost a massive $204.3 million in scams in 2022

A scientist who was the target of a ‘mum and dad’ social media scam where he almost lost close to $5,000 cottoned on to the con thanks to the criminal’s lack of punctuation.

Australian immunologist, and avid Twitter user, Alan Baxter has now hit out at banks for facilitating cyber criminals and not getting the scammer’s account banned.

‘Hi dad this is my temp number I’m using an old device until my phone is repaired,’ the message read. 

Immunologist Alan Baxter shared a conversation he had on WhatsApp with a scammer claiming to be his son (pictured)

Immunologist Alan Baxter shared a conversation he had on WhatsApp with a scammer claiming to be his son  (pictured)

Posing as Mr Baxter's 'son', the scammer said he needed money to fix his phone problem (pictured)

Posing as Mr Baxter’s ‘son’, the scammer said he needed money to fix his phone problem (pictured) 

Dubbed the ‘mum and dad’ scam, Mr Baxter was the target of the WhatsApp con where fraudsters pose as an individual’s child in desperate need of cash.  

Mr Baxter (pictured) recognised the message as a scam and contacted ANZ bank after the scammer requested a money transfer into an ANZ account

Mr Baxter (pictured) recognised the message as a scam and contacted ANZ bank after the scammer requested a money transfer into an ANZ account

Mr Baxter said the bad grammar in the message told him instantly it was not written by his son, and promptly contacted ANZ’s customer help line to report the attempted fraud.

‘My son is an English teacher so the lack of grammar and full-stops alerted me,’ Mr Baxter told Daily Mail Australia.

‘I first contacted ANZ’s customer help line but I was told it (the scam) wasn’t related to the banks activities and there was nothing that they can do.

‘I thought it was an opportunity for the bank to close or freeze the account and even investigate the funds it has received.’

Mr Baxter alleges ANZ bank refused to take the scammers account details despite the account belonging to the bank (pictured, ANZ branch in Seven Hills, Sydney)

Mr Baxter alleges ANZ bank refused to take the scammers account details despite the account belonging to the bank (pictured, ANZ branch in Seven Hills, Sydney)

HOW TO SPOT SCAM MESSAGES 

1) Scammers can make messages look real. Even if you’ve previously received legitimate SMS messages from the same number, don’t assume all following messages are real. Scammers can ‘spoof’ real phone numbers or email addresses, to make it appear that they come from your actual bank or another legitimate contact.

2) It’s different in style from the first SMS. The previous SMS is legitimate and it provides information only. It tells you to log into your account but provides no links that could lead to potentially malicious websites.

3) It has a malicious link. The new SMS contains a link to a phishing website. These types of websites attempt to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account details, passwords and credit card numbers. Even if you think the text might be real, it’s safer not to click on any links, and to log into your account by typing your bank’s URL (Uniform Resource Locator) directly into the address bar. The address bar appears at the top of your web browser, and the numbers and letters that make up the URL are the directions to the website or webpage.

4) It’s not secure. Legitimate sites containing sensitive information will use https not http, but don’t rely on this alone — some scam sites use https too.

5) It has a sense of urgency. Scams often try to create a sense of urgency. Don’t rush — take the time to think about what the message is telling you to do and consider whether it’s real.

 

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Mr Baxter said the customer service employee refused to take the scammer’s account details and hung up the phone after he requested to speak to a manager.

‘So a general warning: If anyone is trying to get you to send money to the following ANZ account, it is probably fraud: Name: George M M BSB: 016 080 Account number: 316157952,’ Mr Baxter wrote on the Twitter post.   

‘It all raises the issue of what responsibility a bank facilitating fraud has in a situation like this. 

‘They clearly profit from the fraud, provide the resources to enable it, and refuse to act even when offered evidence.’

In a reply to Mr Baxter’s tweet, an ANZ staffer said a screenshot of the scam had been sent to the bank’s hoax and cyber security department. 

ANZ bank has since placed ‘restraints’ on the account and are investigation the scam. 

‘We were made aware of the issue and our teams promptly took steps to address it, including placing restraints on the account,’ a spokesperson for ANZ told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘As this matter is still under investigation, we’re unable to discuss further.’

A number of Twitter users said they had received similar scam texts from unknown numbers on WhatsApp.  

‘I had exactly the same initial message recently via WhatsApp, except mine was “Hi, Mum”,’ one user commented.

‘Given my only child was with me in the same room as me at the time, I just marked it as spam.’ 

‘I have had two texts on WhatsApp,’ another user wrote. 

‘I nearly fell for the first as daughter had moved interstate. Wanted my visa number to pay a bill. Tried to call the number no reply. Blocked and reported to WhatsApp.’ 

It comes after an Adelaide grandfather was conned into sending $42,000 to a scammer who pretended to be his son. 

Nigel Gammon frequently used WhatsApp to talk to his son Jock, who had recently moved overseas.  

The 77-year-old man believed the text he received on May 27 was from his son and promptly sent images of the front and back of his credit card.   

Scamwatch reported 325 cases of WhatsApp 'mum and dad' scams since the beginning of the year with 96 cases reporting a financial loss of $710,672 (pictured, data table provided by Scamwatch)

Scamwatch reported 325 cases of WhatsApp ‘mum and dad’ scams since the beginning of the year with 96 cases reporting a financial loss of $710,672 (pictured, data table provided by Scamwatch)

‘Anyone that gets a message from their son would feel the same way if you can help you do it,’ Nigel told 9News.

‘I’m very upset about the whole incident, I think my son particularly feels guilty.

‘It was one o’clock in the morning over there and I just didn’t want to ring him up, which I should have.’

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch, Australians have reported total losses of $710,672 in ‘mum and dad’ WhatsApp scams in 2022.  

‘Scamwatch received 325 reports related to ‘mum and dad’ scams and 96 (29.5%) of these reports noted a financial loss,’ Scamwatch told Daily Mail Australia.   

Last year, Aussies lost a massive $323.7 million in scams - a whopping 84 per cent more than 2020 (stock image)

 Last year, Aussies lost a massive $323.7 million in scams – a whopping 84 per cent more than 2020 (stock image)

Scamwatch warned Australians of the WhatsApp scam in a post to its twitter account on May 25.

‘If you get an unexplained message from someone claiming they have a new number or new bank account, call them directly on their usual number to confirm,’ Scamwatch wrote. 

Last year, Aussies lost a massive $323.7million in scams – a whopping 84 per cent more than 2020 – with individuals over 65-years-old the most vulnerable to the scams. 

Australian’s are encouraged to report scams to the ACCC and social media providers and are urged to contact their bank if account details were provided to a scammer.

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