Family emergency scams

Did you get a text saying it’s your daughter/sister asking you for urgent help? Tread carefully, because it just might be a scammer trying to dupe you into sending them money! How can you be sure? Read this article to find out!

Yasmin is watching a movie with her mother. They are enjoying their afternoon tea together when a notification bell dings signalling a text. Picking up her phone, Yasmin’s mother finds a text that reads:

Hey mom it’s me. I need help.

Yasmin has a younger sister, Sam, who is hanging out with friends at the time. Alarmed by the text, Yasmin and her mother respond almost immediately, operating under the assumption that it was indeed Sam.

They quickly received a reply:

Yasmin’s mother doesn’t give it much thought, relieved that her daughter is safe and just needs a bit of cash. She says she’s going to grab her wallet and get ready to transfer the money but Yasmin stops her and asks her to sit down again.

Having realized that the wool was being pulled over their eyes, Yasmin tells her mother that this is a scam.

Think about it, if Sam’s phone was really broken she would just call using her friend’s phone to let us know, she wouldn’t be asking you for money to buy a new one immediately. This isn’t like her. Besides we didn’t even call her to make sure this story is real! Let’s just call her and check before doing anything.

And with that Yasmin and her mom call Sam and confirm that she is fine and so is her phone. Thanks to Yasmin’s quick thinking, they avoided being scammed… but many other people have fallen for it.

This scam isn’t new, in fact it’s been circulating for quite some time. We’ve seen plenty of texts that are similar to the one Yasmin’s mother received:

Several official sources have spoken about this scam as well:

How to detect this kind of scam?

  • Scammers will not hesitate to pretend they are your friends or family to take your money. They usually target the elderly and parents.
  • Think rationally and don’t let your emotions get the better of you! Don’t let them pressure you into making any hasty decisions.
  • If you have any doubt, check the phone number and/or the text received on the web or on the Scamwatcher search engine.
  • If you receive a text or a call from someone asking you for money under the pretext of being a loved one, make sure to check with the person they’re pretending to be first. Call your child or grandchild and see if the story is true or not. If they’re not available call their partner/spouse/roommate/etc. If you can.
  • Look for warning signs in texts/calls. Scammers love asking for wire/bitcoin transfers or gift cards because they’re non-refundable and irreversible transactions.

What can I do if I fell for it?

If you sent money to a scammer pretending to be your close friend or relative, it’s important that you don’t freak out. We all make mistakes and the scammer is to blame here, not you.

  • If you paid a scammer via gift cards or wire transfer, it’s unlikely that you can get the money back.
  • If you used a credit card, you should contact your bank asap and let them know.
  • Report the scam to the FTC at or by forwarding the text to 7726 (SPAM).

Have you encountered this type of scam before? Tell us in the comments or report it on our site!

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