Fraudsters using family impersonation to prey on customers during holiday season

  • A spike in ‘family impersonation’ text messages reported in July
  • 25% increase in customers falling victim to “Hi Mum/Dad” text scams
  • Increase coincides with holiday season, with family members likely to be away from home
  • Never trust text messages – stop, think and check!

Bank of Ireland is warning of a high volume of family impersonation messages in circulation at the moment, with a 25% increase in cases recorded in July.  Fraudsters are sending fake messages purporting to be from a member of the family with a lost or damaged phone who needs access to money.  These messages ultimately lead the customer to website links that are not genuine and are an attempt to collect personal card and online banking details.

In an increasing number of cases, fraudsters are asking people to go to their branch to make a payment, with the value of these payments in the months of May to July close to trebling when comparted the previous three months.

Cases of “Hi Mum…” text message scams follow a similar format each time, opening with “Hi Mum / Hi Dad, this is my temporary / new number …”  followed by a request intended to look like it’s from a child asking for help to pay for something urgently.  In some cases, the fraudster will ask for a payment to be made to a specific bank account or in other cases ask for a card number and then set it up on a digital wallet e.g. Apple Pay or Google Pay (and ask Mum for the code that the bank just sent).


Commenting on the current wave of fraudulent messages, Nicola Sadlier, Head of Fraud, Bank of Ireland said: “Smishing attacks come in waves, with the same objective each time – to access people’s bank account details or dupe them into transferring money.  The fraudsters develop new variations on similar frauds to catch people out.  Familiar tactics include fraudsters posing as banks, utility companies, toll operators and government agencies.  This time, we have seen the fraudsters turn to family impersonation, targeting a particular vulnerability that preys on a parents’ instinct to respond to a child in trouble in order to access their money.  This is particularly prevalent when families or children may be holidays.

“The sense of urgency in this current wave of text message is deliberately designed to cause panic, meaning customers are unfortunately acting on the request before considering a rational response.  If a text prompts you to act immediately – stop, think and check before reacting. Our advice to customers is no matter what you’re being told in a text, always call your son or daughter back on the number that you know”.

Bank of Ireland’s advice to customers in response to the current smishing scam:

  • If you receive a text message with an unusual request from a child or family member – do not respond to the SMS or click on any link that may follow;
  • Instead, verify the identity of the sender: call your family member using their usual phone number saved in your contacts , a number that you know;
  • If you get a suspicious text, please email a screenshot of the text to and then delete the text; and Bank of Ireland customers who think they gave away their banking details should call our 24/7 Freephone line 1800 946 764 immediately.

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