despicable  | 

Warning issued as public lose over £65k in new WhatsApp scam targeting elderly

The criminals behind the scam have been targeting older people, with one losing in excess of £6,000 last week

One image released by the PSNI showing how the scammers are targeting people

Jamie McDowell

The PSNI have issued a warning over a WhatsApp scam which is targeting elderly people in Ulster.

The warning comes after a rise in ‘phishing’ scams, in which people are targeted via phone call, text or on social media platforms like WhatsApp in which criminals pretend to be friends or family members of their intended target.


Scammers then ask for money from the victim for various reasons, like for help with an unpaid bill, or claim they are stuck abroad.

Numerous instances of phishing messages have been reported all over Northern Ireland throughout the pandemic.


The PSNI have now said victims have lost over £65,000 in the scam, with older people being particularly vulnerable.

The scam has been reported 110 times to police.

Superintendent Gerard Pollock of the PSNI’s ScamwiseNI Partnership, who described the scam as “despicable”, said: "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."


He added: "Just last week, one victim lost £6,000 after receiving one of these messages.

"We've seen victims from Northern Ireland lose in excess of £65,000 to this scam.

"The amounts of money vary from victim to victim.

"In some cases that has been as low as £20, all the way up to £15,000."

He also advised those who feel any message they have received is suspicious: "Don't get into a text or WhatsApp conversation with scammers. Spot it. Stop it."

He said those who feel unsure about an email they have received to report it to and those who have received suspicious text messages to report them to 7726. The police can also be contacted on their non-emergency number, 101.

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