Grandmother Teresa Griffiths believed the texts from the messaging app were from her daughter Louise Scott, who was upset over an outstanding bill.
But the 62-year-old says the messages were actually from a scammer who asked her for £6,572 – which she pinged to their account before realising she had been tricked.
The single mum-of-two, from Feltham, west London, was distraught to find out she had lost a stack of money she was saving for a once-in-a-lifetime 60th birthday trip to Vegas which had been delayed by the pandemic.
She was targeted in June this year and claims she felt sick when Santander, who she banks with, told her they couldn’t help retrieve the cash.The string of WhatsApp messages from the fraudster started with: ‘Hi mum’.
She claims the messages then went on to say her daughter had dropped their phone down the toilet and had a new number.
Teresa explains: “The messages were written just how my daughter, Louise, writes texts.”
Believing she was texting her 40 year-old daughter, who was having building work done at the time, the messages continued to say they had forgotten to pay a bill for £2,780.
Teresa said: “I offered her the money. I thought it was for the work she was having done at the house.
“Even when they gave me a different bank account, I thought I was paying the builder direct.
“Yes I was stupid to offer to help, but they would have asked anyway, that’s obviously where it would have led to.”I’m a mum and gran and I wanted to help – these scammers prey on mums who want to help their children, it’s an instant reaction to help if you can.”
The scammer then asked Teresa to pay for a second forgotten bill for £3,792 and within minutes Teresa has transferred thousands of pounds of savings, unaware it wasn’t her daughter.
But when the con artist pushed their luck and asked for a third payment of £2,120 Teresa heard alarm bells.
The scammers posed as Teresa’s daughter Louise ( Image: Caters News Agency)
She explains: “I had paid them £6,572 in two transactions.
“When they asked for more and I said I didn’t have it, they said just pay what you’ve got. That’s when I thought that doesn’t sound like my daughter.”
Teresa asked the scammer the names of her grandchildren, she claims they knew the information but laughed off the question.
Now worried, called her son-in-law.
Their discussion lead to the realisation that she was the victim of a elaborate scam, and it was now too late to reverse the transactions.
Teresa, who doesn’t work due to ill health said she felt sick to her stomach when she realised what had happened.
She said: “I felt sick and empty. How could I be so stupid?
Teresa’s daughter Louise and her son, Lee, 32, were both heartbroken to realise what had happened and urged their mum to contact the bank.Teresa, who has three grandchildren added: “It was all my savings, we wanted to go to Vegas and New York for my 60th.
It was cancelled due to Covid, so I had the money in my account ready for when we could book again.
“It was a trip of a lifetime and now it’s gone.”
Santander told Teresa they would look into it, but she later received a letter which informed her of the end of their investigation because it was her “own fault”, she said.
She claims the bank was “dismissive” and that though she authorised it, she honestly believed it was her daughter she was chatting to.
Now Teresa hopes that by speaking out she will save someone else the heart ache of going through what she has.
A spokesperson for Santander said: “”Using messenger apps, such as Whatsapp, to pretend to be someone’s family or friend in need is another unsettling way fraudsters deceive their victims.
“With new scams emerging all the time, it’s more important than ever to challenge something if it doesn’t look right and if you receive an unexpected payment request from anyone, take a few minutes to check it’s genuine.”
Though Teresa’s money was lost, a law change that would force banks to dish out mandatory refunds to innocent victims of fraud has been gathering support.
Some tips to prevent you becoming a victim of fraud include being wary of any messages asking for money; calling friends or family to check if in doubt; setting up two-step verification for extra security; and making sure your messaging apps are up to date.
It’s also wise to use common sense – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.