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‘Talk to your elderly relatives’ plea as police reveal rise in WhatsApp scams

'It’s a despicable act, which takes advantage of a person’s willingness to help out loved ones who are perhaps away from home'

People are being urged to talk to older family members following a rise in phishing text, phone call and Whatsapp messages.

The warning from police comes after numerous new reports from victims across Northern Ireland, with older people in particular being targeted by scammers posing as relatives.

Last week, one victim was conned out of £6,000.

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

Superintendent Gerard Pollock, chair of the ScamwiseNI Partnership, said: “We are noticing more and more reports in recent months of this type of scam from individuals across Northern Ireland.

“In each case, a person purporting to be a family member, often a daughter or son, asks for money. Typically, the ‘child’ is short of money or late paying bills, and asks the recipient to transfer money into an account.

“This is backed by a story that he or she has recently changed their phone or phone number.

“It’s a despicable act, which takes advantage of a person’s willingness to help out loved ones who are perhaps away from home.”

“In some of these cases, the victim has been careful enough to check with the relative and therefore realise it’s a scam before parting with any money.

“Sadly, however, this isn’t always the case. Just last week, one victim lost £6,000 after receiving one of these messages.

“It’s really important that if you have older members of your family, talk with them and warn them about this particular type of scam. This is a really important conversation to have.”

Superintendent Pollock added that scammers “rely upon the good faith and vulnerability of those they target”.

“Hard-earned savings can easily be gone in a flash and, with it, one’s confidence,” he said. “Please don’t get caught out.  If you get a message make contact with your son or daughter on their usual number. Don’t get into a text or WhatsApp conversation with the scammers.”

Anyone who any concerns about unsolicited calls, emails or letters can report them to Action Fraud via their website or by phoning 0300 123 2040.

Emails can also be forwarded to the Suspicious Email Reporting Services at and suspicious websites to

Suspicious text messages can be reported for free to 7726.

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