The aim of this scam is to make the victim think they are talking to a family member in distress who needs help, and particularly money. It is usually carried out over the telephone. When money is to be handed over, the alleged family member does not appear in person, but sends someone else instead.
A similar scam also exists via SMS. Here, an unknown person pretends to be a family member (usually the child of the person being written to) of the potential victim and tells them that the supposed relative's mobile phone has been stolen and that they therefore have a new phone number.
The victim is also asked to call the new number or to reply to the message. The victim is then made to believe that the family member urgently needs a new mobile phone and is therefore dependent on money. If the victim transfers the money, it is of course gone along with the scammers.
There are simple measures to avoid being caught out by this type of scam:
- Avoid making too many personal details accessible to third parties.
- Limit your record in the telephone directory (e.g.: change Ms Sabine Müller to Ms S. Müller).
- Ask the caller specific questions to check their story.
- Ask for their telephone number and check it.
- If in doubt, hang up.
- Do not make any impulsive decisions.
- Always inform the Police.