News, Culture & Society

Nina Merrilees falls for ‘Hi Mum’ text scam handing over $11,600

How a worried mum was scammed out of $11,000 by an innocent-looking text message she thought was from her daughter – here’s how to make sure it doesn’t happen to you

  • Mum tricked into transferring $11,600
  • Scammers sent text posing as daughter 
  • ‘Hi Mum’ scam one of many circulating

A loving mother has fallen victim to cruel scammers who stole $11,600 by posing as the woman’s daughter, even sending love heart emojis to make it more convincing.

Victorian mum Nina Merrilees, who lives near the state’s border with NSW, said she was busy at work when she received what appeared to be an innocent text from her daughter.

The message that appeared on Ms Merrilees phone via WhatsApp read: ‘Hi Mum, my phone is broken, this is my new number’.

Ms Merrilees, a mother-of-two, said that this type of message from her daughter, who lives in New Zealand, was not out of the ordinary. 

‘With our daughter that’s a fairly standard practice,’ Ms Merrilees told 7News.

‘She’s lived overseas for quite a few years and has lost her phone, broken her phone … so this was just normal to get a new number from her.’

The person posing as Ms Merrilees’ daughter asked her to make some urgent payments as the phone was new and didn’t have a banking app installed.

Once more this did not strike Ms Merrilees as anything out of the ordinary.

‘I’m not sure about other parents, but we quite often make payments for our kids and they always pay us back straight away,’ she said. 

Ms Merrilees also knew her daughter was buying a dog with her husband and assumed the money was for that.

The mother-of-two sent the sums of $3,450, $3800 and $4,350 using online payments system Osko while the person poising as the daughter promised to pay it all back promptly the next day. 

During the text conversation the scammer maintained the facade by peppering the messages with love heart and smiley face emojis. 

Despite sending the money Ms Merrilees felt uneasy about the transaction and emailed her daughter straight after.

Her daughter immediately called Ms Merrilees using her previous phone number.

‘As soon as I saw that number flash up I just knew I had been scammed out of $11,600 and just felt physically sick,’ Ms Merrilees said.

Ms Merrilees immediately informed her bank of the scam but is yet to get any money back. 

As a public service Ms Merrilees has decided to warn others by sharing her story. 

‘My advice is to perhaps not act straight away,’ Ms Merrilees said.

‘We thought we were pretty switched-on people and it can just happen so easily.’ 

Victorian mother Nina Merrilees lost $11,600 to a scammer posing as her daughter, who lives in New Zealand

Victorian mother Nina Merrilees lost $11,600 to a scammer posing as her daughter, who lives in New Zealand


1. Don’t reply directly to any spam text message

2. Don’t hand out any personal information 

3. Don’t click on any links in a text message

4. Be cautious with what any text from an unknown number says 

A Scamwatch spokesman said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) received more than 9700 reports of ‘Hi Mum’ scams in 2022, totalling losses of nearly $7.2 million.

‘Victims are contacted – most often through WhatsApp – by a scammer posing as a family member or friend,’ the spokesman said.

‘They will claim they have lost or damaged their phone and are making contact from a new temporary number.

‘The scammer will ask for personal information such as money to help urgently pay a bill or replace their phone.’

Scamwatch said anyone who gets a message from a number they don’t recognise  should independently verify the contact by reaching out to the person the messenger is purporting to be.

Another way of thwarting a would-be fraudster is to ask a question that only the child would know and insisting it be answered.