Wherever there are people who are trusting and wanting to believe the best in people, there will be people who take advantage of that trust, scamming people out of their good money.
The con artist can be seen throughout history, starting with the medicine man, who would peddle some miracle cure—which was normally filled with alcohol or some other thing that had no medicinal value at all. And there were the street games, where you attempt to find the pea under the nut. And let's not forget the scam artist that would convince you to invest your money in some great invention—and never come through.
With the internet era, a new breed of scam artist has risen, and the number of scams is on the rise. And the most prevalent scam at the moment preys on parents and their desire to help their children.
In today's post, I want to talk about the "Help me, mom" txting scam that has conned thousands of people out of their money, all because they believed that the txt messages were coming from their teenage and young adult children.
"Help me, Mom" Scams
One of the most common scams happening in New Zealand at the moment is a txting scam sent to people that says "hey mom my phones broken I need some money to buy new phone." The txt message even contains the bad grammar that is commonly used in txting language by the younger generation.
If you're a parent of a teenager, receiving a message like this is not something that would be completely out of the realm of possibility. Back in 2021, my own daughter txted me saying that her phone was dying, and that she needed a new phone. My instant response was that we could discuss it when she got home from school. When she got home, she came to me and said, "Um… I think I need a new phone." She then showed me the most spectacular screen problem she had. Her entire screen was nothing but purple, and you had zero chance of seeing what was under that purple. Yeah, she needed a new phone.
But we couldn't afford to get her a new phone right away. We did what we could to salvage an old phone for her to use during this time, but even then, I still got txt messages from numbers that I didn't recognize. They were all actually messages from my daughter using a friend's phone. None of the txt messages asked for money—but I think that was because my daughter knew that the answer would likely be "no", because she was catching me while I was in "work" mode.
There is another layer to this scam. A parent believes the txt messages and is prepare to send their children money, but they then receive a txt message with a specific bank account number to deposit the money into. This won't be a bank account number that the parent has seen before, but the con artist on the other end of the line will have the plausible reasoning for the new account number lined up and ready to go.
The victims of this particular txt scam are trusting and want to believe in the good in people. So, they pay the money without doing additional checks—and get stung.
But with a few simple strategies, you can easily ensure that any money you send to your children actually gets to your children and not some random stranger.
A parent's strategy for avoiding scams that look like they come from their teenage and young adult children.
1) Talk to your children.
The best way to avoid any scam is to always go back to the source from which it looks like the messages are coming from. For the txting scams that look like they come from your children… Well, you need to go back to your children.
Within New Zealand, it is free for any phone number to receive a phone call. In other words, if someone is using a phone that has no money on it, like a prepaid account that has a zero balance, you can call that number and it won't cost anything for the receiver to answer the call. I'm the one that pays the bill if I call one of these numbers. So, if I was to receive a txt message that looks like it came from one of my children from an unknown number, I'll just call the number and talk to them.
Sometimes, actually talking to a person is the best option.
2) Don't trust the random bank account number.
There are times when I get messages from my daughter asking for some money to be put into her account so she can buy something. (It's annoying and frustrating when she does this to me, because it's normally for something that she forgot to tell me about… like some fee at school (when she was still in high school). But I digress.)
In these instances, I go into my banking app and manage it that way. The account numbers for my children are programmed into my online banking system. So, of course, I'm going to give the money using that technology, and not something else.
I am well aware that internet banking is not available worldwide. But there will be options available that will achieve the same effect.
In general, avoid clicking any links that come from unknown numbers.
And always go back to the source.
Do you have any additional tips for avoiding the scams?