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Scammed mum goes into $11k ‘panic’ as she answers daughter’s call

Nina's heart 'sank' when she realised she had become another victim of a simple cyber scam

An Australian mother has been scammed out of $11,000 and fears there will be “no repercussions” for the cyber criminal that tricked her with a simple text.

Nina Merrilees, from Victoria, received a text message from someone pretending to be her daughter, who lives overseas. She said no alarm bells went off for her as her daughter had changed phone numbers several times since leaving Australia.

However, little did Merrilees know that criminals had kicked off a scam that led to her losing thousands and has been used to fleece millions of dollars from Australians around the country.

Nina explaining how she had been scammed
Nina realised she had been scammed when she received a call from her daughter. (Source: 7News)

The tone of the messages coming from her daughter’s “new” number seemed very legitimate as they were in the style she usually speaks. So, Nina sent multiple payments to help her “daughter” out of the tough spot.

She only realised it was a ‘Hi Mum scam’ when her daughter later called from her usual number.

“The sinking, palpitations in the heart, I just went into a complete panic,” she told 7News. “You just think we worked so hard for this and then these thieves just steal your money and there seems to be no repercussions.”


Evolving scams deal $7.2 million blow to Aussies

The ‘Hi Mum’ scam affected more than 11,000 Aussies in 2022, with thieves stealing at least $7.2 million. NAB said 70 per cent of the 1,500 scams targeting their customers a month involved impersonation of some kind - whether that be scams pretending to be mum or dad, the government or well-known companies.

What’s worrying is that the scammers are upping the ante to convince would-be victims that they’re speaking to a loved one. They can then imitate that person during a phone call or when sending a voice note and it makes the scam appear more legitimate.

“They can be created with as little as three seconds of audio taken from a social media post, voicemail or video on a website,” NAB’s advisory awareness manager, Laura Hartley told Yahoo Finance.

“We know they are happening in the UK and US, in particular, and anticipate it’s just a matter of time before these scams head Down Under.”

How do I protect myself from scammers?

Aussies lost a record $3.1 billion to scammers last year, an 80 per cent increase on the previous year.

Scamwatch warn to beware of the following scenarios:

  • It’s an amazing opportunity to make or save money

  • Someone you haven’t met needs your help - and money

  • The message contains links or attachments

  • You feel pressured to act quickly

  • They ask you to pay in an unusual or specific way

  • They ask you to set up new accounts or Pay ID

What should I do if I think I’ve been scammed?

Contact your bank and report the scam. Ask them to stop transactions and stop sending any money.

Report the scam to Scamwatch here and make an official complaint to police here.

Watch out for follow up scams, particularly ones promising they can get your money back. Scamwatch warned one in three victims of a scam are scammed more than once.

Lastly, get support for yourself. You can talk to a financial counsellor or reach out to BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or here for an online chat or Lifeline for crisis support online here on 13 11 14.

You can also contact IDCARE to “reduce the harm they experience from the compromise and misuse of their identity information by providing effective response and mitigation”.