Grandson trick 2.0 - WhatsApp scam on the trail

Old trick in modern dress

At the beginning of last year, we already reported on the so-called Smishing - phishing via SMS or text messenger.

Nevertheless, the threat is more acute than ever, because in this latest variant of the grandchild trick, the scammers are making use of well-known messaging services - with WhatsApp leading the way.

The idea remains the same: to gain the victim's trust by pretending to be a relative who is in need of money. Once the money has been transferred, even the police are often unable to do anything.

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"Grandson trick" Simple scam - highly professional execution

"Hi Dad, guess whose cell phone fell down the toilet?" is the first message you receive from an unknown number. Even if the scam sounds like a simple con, there is a huge machine behind it. 

Call centers in other European countries and acting classes, are only the tip of criminal roots that make up an entire network throughout Europe. Many people often fail to see that this is a form of social engineering that has been perfected over many years. They make use of a repertoire of different stories to convincingly assure their counterparts that they are their son, daughter or some other relative in financial need. 

The possibilities are manifold, but only one thing is certain: the scammers are after their victims' money. And once that money has been handed over to the scammers, even the police are often powerless. In the case of the new scam, however, there is the added factor that a different demographic is being used, as was the case with the original grandchild trick, which primarily targeted older citizens. This broader group of potential victims gives the scammers a higher chance of success.

The grandchild trick WhatsApp scam

The course of the fraud

Varying in content, the scam always follows the same, well thought-out pattern. This shows the criminal energy that goes into the scams and how well thought-out reactions to different situations can be in order to tell his victims a story that is as believable as possible. 

Imitating a trustworthy person

The scammers try to pass themselves off to their victims as a known and, above all, familiar person. Often they try to take the role of the daughter or son. 

With messages like "Hi mom, guess whose cell phone fell down the toilet?", or "Hi dad, guess whose cell phone landed in the washing machine?", the scammers try to create a casual and believable atmosphere on the one hand, and on the other hand, they create a reason why you are contacted by an unknown number.

Small talk

This step serves to further secure the victim's trust. It is particularly noticeable here that the scammers almost never have relevant information about their victims in order to conduct conversations with content. Statements from the victim that the scammer cannot do anything with are often bypassed and evasive answers are given.

The grandchild trick WhatsApp scam

Money worries

The ultimate goal of the scammers is to give the victim a logical reason to make a wire transfer. So whether it's a frozen bank account or a traffic accident, the goal is always the same: the victim's money.

The grandchild trick WhatsApp scam

Why is the scam grandson trick so successful?

As already described, the scam is extremely perfidious and well thought out. There are often signs that it is a scam and the media has also been warning about the criminal machinations of the scammers for a long time, so why is the scam so lucrative?

First, of course, it depends on the amount of scams. As we have already explained, the scam often runs out of call centers that specialize in processing a huge mass of numbers. Among these masses, victims are then unfortunately always found. Even despite media attention, people unfortunately fall for the criminals again and again. WhatsApp has become an elementary part of our private lives, so many people see messanger services like WhatsApp as a safe way to communicate, similar to a letter. The fact that the attempted scam only hits them by chance, because the scammers happened to write to their number, doesn't even occur to some people.

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How can I protect myself?

Protection against this type of fraudster is primarily achieved through education. It is not only important to address the issue in public, family members should also be warned. We therefore advise: 

  • Ignore messages from unknown numbers first and seek contact via old number or other media such as phone.
  • The scammers do not know any personal information about you. Messages often seem generic and do not contain any personal information. When in doubt, ask for personal information.
  • Pay attention to spelling and grammar, this can often be the first clue that it is a scam
  • Clarify important matters privately. Never send money to an account because you are asked to do so via Messenger.

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