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Few parents would be suspicious of a text message from their son or daughter saying they had broken their phone and was using a temporary number. Especially, perhaps, if it was signed with their name, kisses and even a love heart emoji.

But many families have found the seemingly innocent message is, in fact, the start of a cynical scam that can leave them thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Known as the ‘mum and dad’ or ‘friend in need’ con, fraudsters impersonate their victims’ loved ones via the text messaging service WhatsApp.

Ex-headmistress Elizabeth Baker - who lives with retired church minister Hugh (pictured) - came close to losing more than £500 after a scammer pretended to be her daughter

Ex-headmistress Elizabeth Baker – who lives with retired church minister Hugh (pictured) – came close to losing more than £500 after a scammer pretended to be her daughter 

They claim to be in distress and in urgent need of cash in the hope worried relatives will hand over money without thinking twice.

Santander reported a 532 per cent surge in the new scam between August and November last year.

Nearly two-thirds of the crooks were impersonating someone’s son, while 33 per cent pretended to be their daughter.

Data from Action Fraud reveals victims lost nearly £50,000 between August and October last year; some victims are out of pocket by up to £3,000 each, says the fraud reporting body.

One family, which wishes to remain anonymous, was tricked out of £1,500.

Scammers contacted the father posing as his daughter, claiming she had visited a private clinic for emergency medical treatment and that a doctor was pestering her to settle the bill.

Over the course of two days, the fraudsters sent a total of 56 messages asking for help, until her worried father asked her grandparents to send the money.

It was only when the family finally reached her on the phone the following day that they realised he had been duped.

A conman tricked Cally Beaton's father out of £1,800

A conman tricked Cally Beaton’s father out of £1,800

The grandfather, 75, says: ‘My granddaughter has a very unusual spelling of her name. So when the text came up, we didn’t think for a second it could be anybody else.

‘My son rang me in a panic saying she desperately needed the money, so we said we’d make the transfer.

‘Once you realise it’s a scam, you feel like a fool. It’s horrible.’

His bank has since refunded the money.

Elizabeth Baker, 70, came close to losing more than £500 after a scammer pretended to be her daughter Katrina. 

The grandmother-of-three was on holiday in Eastbourne when she received a WhatsApp message.

‘Hi Mum, I dropped my phone down the toilet, so I can’t use it anymore,’ it read.

At first the retired prep school head advised her to pop her phone into a box of rice to dry it out, but then the scammer began asking her for cash.

Elizabeth says: ‘The message said it was for an urgent bill which needed to be paid by tomorrow and sent me the bank details to transfer the money.’ 

She became suspicious and rang Katrina’s partner, who confirmed that her daughter’s phone was fine.

Elizabeth, who lives with retired church minister Hugh, in Tamworth, Staffordshire, says: ‘Those messages could easily have come from my daughter. It just shows how all of us are vulnerable to these scams.’

That vulnerability, heightened by the pandemic, almost caught out Cally Beaton’s father: he nearly lost £1,800 to a WhatsApp scammer pretending to be one of his children

The retired teacher, who did not want to be named, received a message addressing him as ‘Dad’ last week. The sender claimed they were contacting him from a new number after breaking their old phone.

Cally, 52, says: ‘They signed the message off with an ‘x’ and my father assumed it was my brother. It was so sad, because he was really pleased to hear from my brother and was asking how he was.’

The scammer then told her dad they had not checked their email for a while and needed to borrow £1,800 to pay a bill.

However, when Cally’s father tried to transfer the money through his online account, the bank halted the payment and requested a call to authorise it.

Luckily, the pensioner went on to call Cally before he did anything else, and she told her father it was a scam. Cally, a comedian from Camden, North London, says: ‘I was furious to think that people would exploit parents who just wanted to talk to their children during the pandemic.’

Money Mail also spoke to a woman, 66, who paid £814 to a scammer posing as her son. She says he had been struggling financially due to the pandemic — which made the requests for money all the more believable.

In text messages, the scammer begged: ‘I need to pay the bills now otherwise the amount will be increased,’ and ‘Oh no I can’t wait.’

Known as the 'friend in need' con, fraudsters impersonate their victims' loved ones via the text messaging service WhatsApp

Known as the ‘friend in need’ con, fraudsters impersonate their victims’ loved ones via the text messaging service WhatsApp

When she later queried with her bank where the payment had gone, she was told it had been paid into an account with Prepaid Financial Services (owned by Australian fintech firm EML Payments).

The firm’s Trustpilot review webpage is littered with complaints that the service is linked to sort codes given out by WhatsApp scammers. 

One reads: ‘I was scammed by a WhatsApp message starting ‘hi mum’ as the other reviews. I was at work at the time and unfortunately fell for it, losing £945 into two accounts with this bank’s sort code.’

In September 2019, the firm was fined €1 million by the French banking regulator for lapses in its anti-money laundering controls, including failures to report suspicious card activity to the authorities. 

And in May last year, the Central Bank of Ireland launched an investigation into compliance issues at the firm that has now

been rebranded as EML Cardholder Portal. Although the firm itself was not being accused of fraud, as the conduit company, it was accused of not making sufficient checks on where the money was going.

The Central Bank of Ireland has since given EML’s Irish subsidiary the green light to sign up new customers and launch new programmes.’

Fraud reports have rocketed over the past two years, with crooks exploiting the pandemic to prey on vulnerable households.

Victims lost £4 million a day in the first six months of 2021, a 30 pc increase in losses compared to the same period in 2020. Many were targeted by criminals impersonating trusted organisations such as Royal Mail and HMRC.

And this latest trick reveals just how sophisticated fraudsters have become.

Nearly two-thirds of the crooks were impersonating someone's son, while 33% pretended to be their daughter

Nearly two-thirds of the crooks were impersonating someone’s son, while 33% pretended to be their daughter

Fraud experts at Individual Protection Solutions (IPS) believe victims’ personal details are sold and bought by scammers online.

The firm estimates that 71 per cent of Britons have had details from at least one of their online accounts leaked on the dark web.

Charlie Shakeshaft, founder of IPS, advises: ‘This scam is becoming more and more widespread because it works. 

If you feel rushed by a sender, this is a tell-tale sign it is a scam. Take your time, and make sure you hear from the family member or friend directly using another channel. A phone call is ideal as you can recognise their voice.’

WhatsApp is now working with National Trading Standards on its Friends Against Scams campaign to stamp out the con.

Kathryn Harnett, policy manager at WhatsApp, says: ‘If you receive a suspicious message, calling or requiring a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are.’

An EML spokesman says: ‘As a company providing financial services in the UK, we comply with all relevant regulatory requirements, including our obligations regarding customer due diligence and transaction monitoring. 

‘As a business, we invest heavily in best-in-class fraud monitoring technology.’

A Financial Conduct Authority spokesman says: ‘If people suspect, or fall victim to, payment fraud, we urge them to report this to their bank and Action Fraud. 

We will assess the intelligence we receive and take action if we’re concerned firms are not effectively guarding against financial crime.’

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Clothing brand Quiz sees Christmas trade surge despite Omicron variant damaging sales of partywear

  • Strong store and concessions helped offset a £700m decline in online revenues
  • Quiz said the Omicron variant cut customer levels in the latter half of December
  • Tougher Covid curbs across Britain led many Christmas parties to be cancelled 










Fast-fashion retailer Quiz has revealed a massive boom in store trade over the festive period despite Covid restrictions affecting sales of partywear.

The company said total revenues jumped by a fifth to £8.8million in December as the lack of store closures helped sales in its UK outlets and concessions climb by about £2million from the previous year to £5.2million.

This helped offset a £700million drop in online purchases following the cessation of particular third-party partnerships, though the board noted that its website sales were in line with its forecasts.

Party time: Quiz said total revenues jumped by a fifth to £8.8m in December as the lack of store closures helped sales in its UK outlets and concessions climb to £5.2m

Party time: Quiz said total revenues jumped by a fifth to £8.8m in December as the lack of store closures helped sales in its UK outlets and concessions climb to £5.2m

Revenues at its international business, which includes five shops and 15 concessions in Ireland, also increased by 11 per cent to £1.5million even as the country was impacted by rising coronavirus cases.

Quiz acknowledged that the spread of the Omicron variant ‘notably reduced’ customer levels in the second half of the month and led to many consumers returning partywear apparel to stores.

Fashion sellers were hoping for a roaring trade in the run-up to the Christmas and New Year holidays this time around after last year’s very muted celebrations when people were prevented from mixing indoors with those outside their home and support bubble.

But they took a knock again this year after the UK Government implemented ‘Plan B’ measures in England, and the authorities in Wales and Scotland reintroduced very tough rules on socialising.

From Boxing Day in WaIes, all nightclubs were closed, outdoor events had their attendance numbers capped at 50, and a maximum of six people could meet up in pubs, cinemas and restaurants.

Scotland brought in slightly fewer restrictions in late December, but only 500 people could attend an outdoor event like a football match, while no more than 100 could visit an unseated indoor event.

Refund: Quiz acknowledged that the Omicron variant 'notably reduced' customer levels in the second half of December and led many consumers to return partywear apparel to stores

Refund: Quiz acknowledged that the Omicron variant ‘notably reduced’ customer levels in the second half of December and led many consumers to return partywear apparel to stores 

Together, these curbs caused a higher number of people to cancel social events and businesses to shun the traditional office Christmas party, hurting demand for formal outfits as a consequence.

Nonetheless, bosses at Glasgow-based Quiz said that they were ‘pleased with the performance achieved in the period given the challenging trading conditions. 

They believe that as long as the coronavirus causes ‘no further substantial disruption,’ its full-year results will match their expectations.

Quiz’s latest trading update arrives a month after it released interim results showing its revenue more than doubled to £36.2million in the six months to the end of September on the back of the loosening of trading curbs.

Within UK shops and concessions, sales surged by over 250 per cent to £16.6million, but online trade also rose by £2.6million even after non-essential stores were allowed to reopen by the UK Government in mid-April.

Founded in 1993 by Tarak Ramzan, Quiz developed into a major British fashion brand online and on the high street and listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market in 2017.

It has launched collaborations with reality television stars from shows such as The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore and Love Island, and has seen its shares climb by about 125 per cent over the last 12 months.

However, their value remains over 90 per cent below their value three years ago following successive profit warnings, Brexit uncertainty, tougher competition, and concerns regarding the treatment of staff employed by its suppliers.

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Private equity firm TPG sees shares soar on first day of trading with its value topping £7.5bn










Private equity firm TPG saw its shares soar in its first day of trading as its value topped £7.5billion.

The US investment business, which went public yesterday, rocketed by 15 per cent as its shares began trading on the stock market in New York

The stock was initially priced at $29.50 but hit $33.97 in early afternoon.

US investment business TPG , which went public yesterday, rocketed by 15 per cent as its shares began trading on the stock market in New York

US investment business TPG , which went public yesterday, rocketed by 15 per cent as its shares began trading on the stock market in New York

The stellar initial public offering (IPO) cemented the fortunes of TPG’s billionaire founders David Bonderman and Jim Coulter. 

Coulter owns almost 3.5m of the Class A shares being offered in the IPO, now worth £86.5million, while Bonderman owns 780,000 worth £19million. 

They also own almost all of the Class B shares, worth around £5.7billion.

Founded in 1992, Texas-based TPG owns more than 280 firms across more than 30 countries. 

Traditionally, only major institutional investors and ultra-wealthy families have been able to put their money in private equity. 

But several firms have gone public in recent years, giving regular shareholders the chance to gain exposure.

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Premier Inn owner Whitbread sees temporary ‘softening’ in demand amid Omicron but expects hotel sales to fully recover by the end of the year

  • Whitbread saw sales increase over 3% in the quarter to 25 November
  • But rise of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 led to demand easing
  • The group expects hotel sales to fully recover by the end of 2022 










Premier Inn hotel group owner Whitbread suffered a hit to bookings in the last few weeks amid the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Whitbread, which also owns the Beefeater chains, saw sales increase by 3.1 per cent in the quarter to 25 November, but concerns over Omicron in the last few weeks led to ‘softening’ demand, the group said. 

Total food and drinks sales fell over 11 per cent during the festive season, but Whitbread’s like-for-like hotel revenue was 5 per cent higher than the same period the previous year.

Whitbread expects sales at its UK hotels to fully recover this year. 

Bookings: Premier Inn hotel group owner Whitbread said the group suffered a hit to bookings in the last few weeks

Bookings: Premier Inn hotel group owner Whitbread said the group suffered a hit to bookings in the last few weeks

In its latest update, Whitbread said its operations in Germany had been hardest hit amid tighter lockdown restrictions over the period. 

Whitbread said today: ‘Market-wide supply chain challenges, and potentially softer trading in January and February, mean we have delayed around £20million of our previously guided…marketing and refurbishment investment plans this year, and our capital expenditure will now be around £275million.’

Boss Alison Brittain revealed today that the group had seen an improvement in supply chain pressures across the group in recent weeks.   

In today’s update, Ms Brittain said: ‘Q3 represented another strong performance in the UK with Premier Inn continuing to trade significantly ahead of the market. 

‘High levels of leisure demand and improving business demand helped maintain like-for-like accommodation sales ahead of pre Covid-19 levels. 

‘UK accommodation sales remained resilient in December, albeit softening as we moved through the month and into the festive period as a result of the onset of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. Whilst our hotel performance was excellent, the value pub and restaurant sector in which we operate remains more challenging.’

Victoria Scholar, head of Investment at Interactive Investor, said: ‘Whitbread said it expects Premier Inn’s revenues per average room will recover to pre-Covid levels this year. 

‘While quarterly total UK sales came in 3.1 per cent ahead of full-year 2020, total food and beverage sales fell by 11.1 per cent. The company warned that government lockdown restrictions are weighing on its German market and also warned that sector cost inflation will continue to be above historic levels in 2023.

‘Despite a flat performance for its shares in 2021, the stock has been trading in an ascending trendline since the December trough, with higher highs and higher lows and has recovered almost 70 per cent of its declines from the high at the beginning of November. 

‘The last few weeks have seen very few red candlesticks on the chart suggesting that from a technical perspective the bulls are gathering momentum with £34.50 as the next major resistance hurdle.’

Mamta Valechha, equity research analyst at Quilter Cheviot, said: ‘For investors, Whitbread can be viewed as a Covid recovery play and we have conviction that Premier Inn hotels will emerge from the crisis stronger and we see upside from the acceleration of the roll-out story in the UK and Germany.’ 

Shares in FTSE 100-listed Whitbread rose today, and just before 11am were up 0.56 per cent or 18.00p to 3,217.00p. 

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Property boom spells good news for Savills: Surge in sales and profits as residential and commercial buyers snap up high-end homes and warehouses

  • Savills said 2021 profit would be ‘very significantly’ ahead of previous forecasts
  • The group added that central London property market had also been strong  










Savills experienced an ‘extraordinary strong’ sales period in the UK and across Asia Pacific in the final few weeks of 2021.

In a trading update, the high-end estate agency group said its full year performance had been ‘very significantly’ ahead of expectations.

The group reiterated that it had been able to benefit from ‘substantially lower levels’ of discretionary expenditure in respect of travel, entertaining and marketing events, but it expects these costs to return to near pre-pandemic by the end of the year.

Savills expects its underlying pre-tax profit for 2021 to be ‘very significantly ahead’ of the upper end of its previous range of expectations, but gave no ballpark figures today.

Strong sales: Savills has said it experienced an 'extraordinary strong' sales period in the UK and across the Asia Pacific

Strong sales: Savills has said it experienced an ‘extraordinary strong’ sales period in the UK and across the Asia Pacific

Shares in the FTSE 250-listed company rose sharply today and were up over 8 per cent to 1,435.00p this afternoon.

The group saw a surge in residential and commercial buyers looking to snap up high-end homes and warehouses as 2021 drew to a close. For many commercial buyers, warehouse space has become increasingly vital amid a surge in online shopping.

Businesses have been flocking to snap up more warehouse space, while a high number of residential buyers sought out idyllic retreats in the countryside during the pandemic. 

However, Savills said sales in the pricey central London property market had also held up well.

It said: ‘The UK prime residential market continued to perform exceptionally strongly through the last quarter and volumes in the Prime Central London market clearly began to improve. 

‘Currently there is a definite shortage of sale stock, so despite outperformance in 2021, our expectation of a moderation of activity in 2022 remains intact.’ 

Data from the Office for National Statistics published in December revealed that London remained the most expensive area in the country in October, with homes coming in with average price tags of £516,000. 

On Savills’ website today, some properties for sale in London are listed as ‘price on application’, but the property commanding the highest visible price tag in the capital at present comes with an asking price of over £39million. 

Capital sales: Savills said sales in London had been strong

Capital sales: Savills said sales in London had been strong 

The group said its Asia Pacific business performed well ahead of its expectations.

Hong Kong sales activity and market share remained strong through the period, and Australia, Singapore and Japan also enjoyed strong trading activity in the final quarter, it added.

For the year ahead, the group has maintained its outlook. It said inflationary pressures in many markets will result in employment costs increasing at the highest rate for many years and thinks discretionary costs will ‘progressively normalise’. 

The group added: ‘In respect of trading revenues, at this stage, we anticipate some normalisation of commercial capital transaction volumes and a moderation of levels of activity in some residential markets, particularly in the UK.’

Peel Hunt analysts believe the group’s annual 2021 pre-tax profit could come in at up to £190million, which is 33 per cent higher than the figure reported for 2019. The estate agency group will publish its annual results on 10 March. 

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