TSB issues warning over 'friends and family' WhatsApp scam after huge rise in cases

A cost-of-living scam where criminals send messages pretending to be from friends or family members who urgently need help paying bills is on the rise, according to a major bank.

TSB said it had recorded a 58% increase in “friends and family” scams in July compared with the same month a year earlier.

The upswing has been driven by scam requests for help paying bills, according to the bank, as surging living costs take their toll.

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TSB said its own research suggests that a £500 fraud loss would leave three-fifths of households struggling to afford food for more than a week.

TSB has issued a warning about a 'friends and family' WhatsApp scamTSB has issued a warning about a 'friends and family' WhatsApp scam
TSB has issued a warning about a 'friends and family' WhatsApp scam

The average loss in such cases is £1,500, according to the bank’s analysis, although the amounts can vary hugely, with the majority of scam attempts it looked at taking place on WhatsApp.

In one case, a 71-year-old customer sent £1,700 to a fraudster following an urgent, emotive request claiming to be from his daughter needing money to help with bills.

A fraudster also stole £50 from a 29-year-old customer after impersonating a close friend and requesting support for energy payments.

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Both cases were refunded in full through TSB’s fraud refund guarantee.

Victims typically receive a message from a new number alongside a plausible story on why their number has changed.

After striking up conversation, an emotive request for payment is sent through – made more believable and pressing due to the current economic climate – the bank said.

The bank is also urging people to watch out for frauds where they may be persuaded to pay up-front fees for loans, services or prizes which do not exist.

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Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention at TSB, said the bank is raising the issue to protect customers from potentially losing money.

“A fraud loss will be particularly painful for households during these tough economic conditions, so we are urging the public to be extra vigilant to unsolicited contact or online offers that could well be a scam,” he said.

“With over half of fraud losses not refunded to victims by other banks, take your time and don’t rush in, no matter how emotive and urgent the request.”

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