Scammers are getting so clever when targeting victims in Cleveland. 5 On your Side Investigators are exposing a new play in their playbook: posing as a well-known politician. We spoke with one victim who just wants you to be extra careful online.
Simmie McFarland, 65, thought he had a turn key opportunity, but it certainly didn’t turn out that way. "I feel used. I'm embarrassed. disappointed,” said McFarland. Here’s how it started. He accepted a Facebook friend request from a woman he didn't know. They talked back and forth. A couple weeks later, she wrote saying he could get a government grant to help him with his finances.
"If I put up $500 and get $10,000...it's like hitting the lottery,” McFarland told us.
He went to the Steelyard Walmart and sent $500 through a Money Gram to a guy in Kansas City. However, after that came the runaround.
"I had to pay 4,000 something more dollars," McFarland said.
He pushed back with the guy, but then McFarland said something strange happened. A Facebook message popped up on his phone from "Frank G" with Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson's picture on it.
"So, you thought Frank Jackson befriended you?” we asked.
“Yeah, yeah. And he was going to help me. I trusted him,” McFarland told us.
But, of course, it wasn't Mayor Jackson.
The scammers impersonated the mayor even saying he would chip in $750 to help McFarland get his thousands. "The mayor of the city, I mean, come on! I thought I was an important person,” said McFarland. “I thought this was on the up-and-up."
McFarland sent another $500. This time to a woman in California.
"When it didn't come out right, it was just like holy crap! Man, I've been played again."
McFarland was scammed by two of top frauds hitting Ohio: government grant scams and impostor scams. The Federal Trade Commission said the impostor scam was the overall top fraud again this year with about 1 in 5 people losing money. Total amount scammed nationwide: $328 million.
"I know I'm not going to get my money back. I know that,” said McFarland. “But I just want these people to be exposed. I want other people to be aware that they're out there."
McFarland told us he went down to Cleveland City Hall to let them know this was going on.
We contacted the mayor's office about the fraud. A detective contacted us saying he wanted more info and he's following up on the case.