New 'Hi Mum' text scam targeting worried parents in New Zealand

New 'Hi Mum' text scam targeting worried parents in New Zealand
Photo credit: Getty Images

By Felix Walton for RNZ

A new text scam is targeting worried parents.

The "Hi Mum" scam, which recently plagued Australia, involves a message claiming to be the victim's child. The scammer claims they have lost their phone, and desperately need money.

NetSafe chief online safety officer Sean Lyons said the organisation had already received multiple reports of the scam in New Zealand.

The best way to avoid the scam was to not panic, he said.

"It really is about taking a moment to stop, think, and breathe," Lyons said. "It could be quite an emotional moment, where a child reaches out and says: Mum, dad, I'm in trouble."

But that emotion is exactly what the scammer wants, he said.

"Think about what's being asked of you and how likely, plausible, and genuine this is."

The next step is to verify the sender by getting in touch with your child.

"Call them, get in touch with them via some other channel," Lyons said. "Something that you know is a way of contacting them, and say: is this you? What's going on?"

Lyons said scammers often use urgency tactics to provoke the victim.

"Almost always the fear of loss, or that sense of impending [doom] is a hallmark across so many scams," he said. "Whether that's 'I need money, I'm in trouble' or it's 'this investment is only around for a limited time,' that time pressure is so often a hallmark of scams.

"The more pressure you put somebody under, the less time they have to think rationally and do their due diligence."

NetSafe and government agency CERT NZ allow victims to report scams and keep lists of common tactics.