Imagine you get a text from one of your kids that they dropped their phone in the toilet (ugh) and they’re texting from their friend’s number but their phone is going to die soon so can you text this other number right away? Sounds plausible right?

There’s a new version of the "emergency scam" circulating in Canada, targeting parents. As usual, cyber criminals are using sophisticated tactics exploiting our need to help out our kids when they’re in trouble.

How the scam works

The scam begins with a text message from an unknown number, claiming to be from your child. The message will typically state that they lost their phone and are now using a friend’s, but that friend’s phone is going to die soon or they need leave – anything that creates a sense of urgency. They need you to text them back at another number or through the Whatsapp messaging service immediately.

The scammers are hoping you will react instinctively and respond to the supposed emergency, without verifying the authenticity of the message. They’ll then use this moment of panic to manipulate you into revealing personal information or sending money, falling right into their trap. Receiving a text like this could mean you’re a target of what's known as the Emergency Scam. These scams are common and it’s important that you assess the situation carefully.

How to protect against this scam

  • Stay calm: Scammers are hoping you’ll panic and react immediately so that you don’t logically question their request for money or personal information.
  • Verify identity: If you receive a text message claiming to be from a child in trouble, don’t respond and contact your child or any other reliable family member or friend to check if they have actually broken their phone. Be sure to use a number you already have, not the one provided by the suspected scammer.
  • Be skeptical: Always be cautious when dealing with unsolicited messages or calls, especially when they claim to be emergencies. Creating a sense of urgency is a social engineering tactic used by cyber criminals in a variety of scams.

How you can protect others

It’s important to spread the word about emergency scams to protect those we care about from being victimized by these malicious texts. The CBA has tips on our website: Talking about cyber security with your family and friends.

What to do if you’re a victim

If you suspect you might be a victim of an emergency scam and have provided personal or financial information or money to a scammer, contact your local police and your bank immediately.

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