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How to recognise friend in need fraud

If a relative or close friend asks for help, it's normal that you want to help. But fraudsters try to take advantage of your eagerness to help. They do this by posing as an acquaintance online and asking for money, usually from a new phone number or social media account. This article explains how to recognise friend in need fraud.


'Mum, I have a new number'

Received a message from someone you know by WhatsApp or through social media? Is the person using a new phone number or account that you haven't seen before? This is not necessarily a reason to be suspicious, but be cautious. Fraudsters can also use WhatsApp and social media to pose as a relative or close friend. The reason why they have a new number sounds logical: their phone is broken, their phone has been stolen or they have a new subscription.

'Hi Mum, I have a new number because my phone died on me. Could you maybe lend me some money please? I need to pay a bill today and I don't have the money right now. I get paid tomorrow, then I'll pay you back straight away. That OK?'

'She sounded just like my daughter'

In order to imitate your loved one as effectively as possible, fraudsters sometimes track the person's social media. They 'talk' to the person about current events and copy the language used. When you call the new number, you might vaguely hear the voice of your relative or friend and then the call will stop. These are sound clips taken from social media. In general, this makes it sound like a genuine conversation.

'Could you send me a bit of money please? It's an emergency!'

If a relative or close friend sends you a WhatsApp message asking you to transfer money urgently, you have a reason to be extra cautious – especially when large sums are involved. There have been a few cases of fraudsters hacking into someone's actual WhatsApp account. They might give a logical sounding excuse such as a bill that urgently needs paying. For various reasons, your loved one cannot pay for it. They may say that they cannot access the account or they are temporarily out of money.

3 phones with a WhatsApp chat

Our advice? Speak to your loved one using a different method

It's normal that you want to help a relative or close friend when they need help. However, it is important to be sure that you really are talking to the person you think you are talking to – especially if you have the feeling that something isn't right. If you receive a message from a loved one through an unknown number or an urgent request to transfer money from a number you do recognise, speak to them face to face or through a video call, for example. If that doesn't work, ask the person a question that only your relative or close friend knows the answer to, for example about the past. That way, you can verify that your loved one was the person who sent the WhatsApp message and needs your help.

Always report attempted fraud

If your close friend or relative doesn't know what you're talking about, save the conversations with the fraudster and report the attempted fraud to the police. If you also have the fraudster's IBAN data or payment request, send us this information through this reporting form. We will use this to block the fraudster's account.

Ireen Lammerts – ABN AMRO Security Advisor: 'We work hard to identify suspicious payments, but there are a lot of things you can do as well. Always be cautious when you are contacted online or over the phone with a request to transfer money. Always check that you are definitely speaking to the person you think you are speaking to, whether the person sends a message from an unknown number or a number you do recognise. ABN AMRO will never ask you to transfer money.'

Report the phone number to WhatsApp

If you report the fraudster's phone number to WhatsApp, they will block the number once they have confirmed that the report is valid. In this way, you help prevent other people from being swindled. Want to save the contents of the chat conversation for the purposes of a police report, for example? Take a screenshot and then follow the steps below.

  • Open the chat conversation with the phone number you want to report to WhatsApp.
  • Tap the three dots in the top right-hand corner.
  • Tap 'More' and then ‘Report’.
  • Tap the contact you want to report.
  • Scroll down and tap 'Report contact'.

The above steps may appear slightly differently on your own mobile phone.

Keep your WhatsApp account secure

We want to make you aware of the two-step verification setting on WhatsApp. You can protect your WhatsApp account by adding an additional verification code. You can configure this security setting as follows:

  1. In WhatsApp, tap Settings > Account > Two-step verification > Enable.
  2. Select a six-digit code that you will not forget and enter your email address. WhatsApp will use this email address to contact you if you forget your six-digit code.

Tips for preventing friend in need fraud

  • Never transfer money without questioning it first
  • Do not send anyone your six-digit verification code
  • If you receive an email containing a link to disable the two-step verification setting but you did not request it, do not click the link.