“Hi mum” messages & the importance of updates

By | March 25, 2024

The other day, my mum received a WhatsApp message from a number she didn’t recognise that said “Hi mum, I broke my phone earlier so I’m going to be using this number until I hopefully fix it.  Please save it x”.  Now, at face value, this doesn’t sound too alarming, does it?

However, neither my sister nor I had broken our phones or sent her this message – this was from some nasty scammer, who would have pretended to be her child, and then asked her to send them money to “fix” their supposedly broken phone.  Or sometimes they’re a little cleverer, and they say that they’re currently borrowing a friend’s phone which is low on battery, and they include a replacement number to contact them with instead.

Now, if you aren’t a mum, then this scam probably won’t work on you, but there are plenty of people who would drop everything to help out their kid when they’re in a pickle.  And if you did go ahead and save their number without thinking about it, you’re far more likely to believe them when they then ask you to send some money or hand over your card details.

Thankfully, my mum did exactly the right thing when she got this message – she didn’t respond to it, and she ignored the instruction to save the number.  Instead, she texted me and my sister on the numbers that she already had saved to ask us about it.

So if you ever get a message like this, try your best not to panic, and make sure that you check in with that person using the number you already have for them.  If that doesn’t work, try asking them to prove that it’s really them, by asking a question that only they would know the answer to i.e. something that a scammer couldn’t easily guess.

Keeping your software up-to-date

Another way to protect yourself against scammers like the one I’ve mentioned above is to make sure that the software running your device is kept as up-to-date as possible.  Apple, Android and Microsoft will regularly issue software updates to fix any bugs or problems that have been found, and to maintain the security of your device.

For example, Apple recently issued iOS 17.4, which had a fix for some rare (but still possible) security risks that had been found in iOS 17.3.  So if you get the option to install this update, I would recommend doing it when you get a spare minute.

Now, I don’t want anyone to be too worried about this – if you can’t get iOS 17, or Android 14, that doesn’t mean that your device is at risk.  You just need to make sure that you check for updates on a regular basis.

To check for a software update, you need to open your Settings app (the one with a cog icon).  Sometimes there’ll be a “Software update” category, or sometimes it’ll be in the “General” category, but if you’re struggling you can always search for “Software update” to help find it.

It’ll then tell you if there’s an update waiting, with an option to install it if there’s one available, or it’ll tell you that your device is up-to-date.

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