A MUM feared her daughter could be 'snatched by a paedophile' after a sophisticated hacker posed as her in an attempt to lure the schoolgirl into sending photos.
Hayley Lanciano was sent into a panic when she received a message from daughter Emily Lanciano, 12, asking if she'd sent her a text from a new number.
The schoolgirl then sent over a screenshot of a message purportedly from her 37-year-old mother asking her to save the new number and send over photos.
Horrified that she'd been contacted by a stranger, she was overwhelmed with worry at the thought a paedophile may attempt to snatch her daughter.
Hayley quickly rang the year eight pupil's school to check she was safe.
Hayley, from Gloucestershire, said: "At the time, I genuinely thought it could be someone trying to snatch her.
"I messaged her back straight away saying it wasn't me and I was panicking so I rang the school and they went to check on her.
"I thought someone could have been trying to pinch her. It panicked me that it was a paedophile thing."
Emily had become suspicious when the texter said they were at work as Hayley is currently working from home.
The hacker responded: "By the way, you have some pictures of me because I have nothing on this new phone."
When Hayley responded to let Emily know she wasn't behind the texts, the schoolgirl blocked the number.
Hayley said: "There were red flags for her, she knows that I'm not at work at the moment, I'm at home.
"So when they said I was at work she knew it couldn't have been me.
"There were a few things that she thought were really strange.
"They said they didn't have the Facebook app but she knows I'm on Facebook quite a bit so she knows that wasn't real either.
"She tried to ring them but luckily they declined and she didn't speak to them.
"If it was a scammer and you ring these numbers, they can be premium rates and you get charged extortionate amounts by ringing that number."
As the conversation carried on, she then got the message saying it wasn't Hayley and when she got that she blocked the contact.
Hayley said: "It's concerning how they got her number. With an adult, you're more likely to put your number in websites when signing up to things.
"But with a child, she doesn't, she just has her contacts saved, doesn't sign up to things or share her mobile number. It's just strange."
Hayley posted about the unnerving incident on social media and the post racked up more than 1,000 responses.
- Have you been the victim of a scam? Email [email protected] in confidence
Many people shared similar experiences and while some tried to reassure Hayley that it was more likely to be a scam, others praised Emily for her quick thinking.
The proud mum said: "There were so many comments with people saying it had happened to them. It's unbelievable.
"It's lucky she messaged me first. It's quite scary, it seems quite common but asking for photos was really weird.
"His image was more of a landscape image than a real person so they might have been asking for a photo to use so they look more real.
"We reported it to the police and they said how proud they were of Emily and how brilliant she is for reacting so quickly and knowing the signs to look out for."
Gloucestershire Constabulary confirmed they received a report that a child had received a suspicious message through WhatsApp last week.
The force explained that apps and texts are used for a variety of fraudulent activities, with scams ranging from attempting to scam money from a victim through to identity theft and sextortion.
They cited a number of recent incidents including an 18 year-old woman who lost £1,800 after communicating with a scammer on Snapchat and an elderly man was scammed out of £18,000 after communicating on WhatsApp with a woman 'who needed help with medical bills'.
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