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DIGGING DEEPER: Twists to an old scam are fooling plenty of Facebook users

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA 21) – Just when you think you know exactly what the bad guys are doing, they come up with something different.

Officials with the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana say a twist on an established scam is fooling plenty of people who make use of Facebook.

The scam starts as a hello in Facebook messenger from one of your friends. The message will then mention a grant through the world bank with a link to apply.

Bill Hart, a Fort Wayne resident, received the message and in a couple of minutes qualified for $50,000.

For Hart, a retired engineer and lions club volunteer who’s on social security, $50,000 would help him with a lot, as it would most people.

The messages people are receiving about the grant aren’t a good thing. The catch? They’re fake. The Facebook “friend” they thought they were messaging wasn’t really them. It was a scammer who cloned their account took their photo, name, everything.

The grant scam isn’t new, in fact Maria Omar from the Better Business Bureau says it’s been around for decades. With social media it’s making it much easier for scammers to win and for you to fall for their game.

“If not in minutes, within hours you have won a lot of money, but you don’t receive anything in return. It’s a scam,” Omar told ABC21.

The BBB is now calling this the “Facebook Messenger Grant Scam” and the numbers are alarming.

Nationwide from 2015 to 2019, 390 cases have been reported. The hmost lost was $42,000 by someone in Massachusetts. The latest report to the BBB was $13,000 out in California.

In Indiana there have been 6 cases reported in the past two years, and the highest amount lost was $1,000 in Fort Wayne. The average amount lost in Indiana is $235.

While local numbers seem low, Omar guesses that there are many more cases, but she says many people don’t report that they were ever even scammed. Saying some people feel embarrassed about it.

We asked: What kind of people are these scammers going after? “I truly believe this has nothing to do with anybody’s age or what they know about technology, this can really happen to anybody,” said Omar.

Omar says you should look for messages that use wording about a grant, the world bank, prepaid debit cards and gift cards. Be wary whenever people ask you to wire money. She adds you should never give out your social security, Medicaid or Medicare number.

If you do, you should freeze your accounts so no fraudulent activity can be made.

But, what happens if you do fall victim to this “Facebook Messenger Grand Scam”? And lose money? Omar says there really isn’t anything you can do. If you lose money, you can’t get it back.

The best advice, as always, if it seems to good to be true it most likely is.

To find out what scams are happening in your area, and what you should look for head here.

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Kaitlyn Kendall

Kaitlyn Kendall anchors ABC21 news at 5 and is the chief investigative reporter for the stations Digging Deeper team.

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