Published on: 28 September 2023

Be aware of who’s really messaging you

The scam usually involves WhatsApp, but it can also be a text message or a message over social media like Facebook or X.

The scammer claims to be your son, daughter, or another family member or friend. They pretend they need help with bills, their car has broken down or they need some extra money to make a quick purchase like a new phone or laptop.

The scammers play on your emotions and pretend the situation is urgent. They try not to give you time to think it through.

Eventually, when they think you’ve bought into their lie, they give you their bank account details for payment. And some even come back with more demands for money.

How common are these scams?

According to a 2021 survey by WhatsApp and Opinium (opens in a new window), 59% of UK adults had received or knew someone who had received a message-based scam in the last year. Most of these were by text message, but WhatsApp was increasingly common.

How to fight back against impersonators

  • Always call or meet up with the person to check it’s really them and the bank account details are right.
    If someone asks you for financial help out of the blue, always check it’s really them. You can meet them in person or, if this isn’t possible, just give them a call on the number you already have for them on your phone. Don’t use the number you’ve been given – it may be a trick.

  • Ask for a voice note or call if you’ve received a suspicious message.
    It’s much easier to hide behind a text message than a phone call or recorded voice. Remember, there's always time to give them a quick phone call to check it’s them and this is a real need. If it’s actually your relative or friend, they won’t mind.

  • Talk through what you’ve been asked to do with a trusted, independent person.
    Talk to friends and family you trust. They may spot something suspicious or know something you don’t.

  • Know the common tricks that scammers like to use.
    Scammers will often message you pretending to be your son or daughter and say their old phone has broken, so they’re messaging you on a new number. They sometimes ask you to delete your existing phone number, stopping you from double-checking whether this is true. This is a warning sign that you’re being scammed.

  • Ask yourself whether what you’re being told seems realistic.
    Why are you being asked to pay money into a different bank account than the one you would normally use? Would your child or friend really have broken their phone, lost access to their bank account and created a new bank account without telling you any of this before? Consider whether this request is out of character and why there is such urgency.

  • Don’t forget about our Scam Checker Service.
    If you’re ever unsure about a payment you’re making from your Nationwide current account, you can talk to us first. Call us, or visit us in branch, and we’ll tell you if we think it’s a scam or not. This is our Scam Checker Service. Some payments are excluded.

Our partnership with Independent Age

We’re working together to support members over the age of 65 who are at risk of, or have fallen victim to, fraud and scams.

Independent Age can help with a range of issues that can affect people in later life. So if you, or someone you know has lost money, needs emotional support or financial advice, get in touch. You can also download their Scamwise guide.

Stop. Challenge. Protect

We're proud to be supporting the industry fraud awareness campaign Take Five, which encourages you to perfect the art of saying NO to criminals by taking five minutes to Stop, Challenge, Protect.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police so it can be difficult to spot scam texts, emails and phone calls. However, there are things we can all do to protect ourselves.

Always remember to challenge if someone contacts you asking for your personal or financial information – be direct and say NO. Saying NO can feel uncomfortable but it’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

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