CLEVELAND — 5 On Your Side Investigators often talk about nasty scams that take money away from people. But when criminals target the elderly, it's extra disturbing. We talked to a woman who wants to warn you about a clever scam that uses Facebook to snag your money.
"I thought it was a friend of mine that is very close to me,” said the 81-year-old woman from Stark County. She was just too embarrassed to show her face on TV after what happened.
She got a message through Facebook. Her supposed friend said she had just paid $4,000 for a $150,000 government grant. "(My friend) said she paid all of her bills and put the rest in the bank," the woman told us. The messages included real pictures of the woman's friend, and that's what really confused her.
"These never happen," said Sue McConnell from the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland. She told us no one will contact you out of the blue saying you can get a government grant.
“Government grants are issued for very limited reasons, typically for research or other items,” said McConnell.
The 81-year-old didn't know that, of course. So, the scam rolled on. The next person she was told to contact then said the money was actually part of a Facebook lottery.
The woman asked if she had won. The man texted her saying, “Hang on...let me confirm."
"And he came back and texted me and said, 'Yes,’” said the Stark County woman. “I was on the winning list."
She was given levels of the so-called winnings. If she paid $1,500, she could get $60,000. She got a cashier's check and sent it to a Detroit address.
"Was it a P.O. box?” News 5 investigative reporter Jonathan Walsh asked. But right then, a noise came from her phone.
“Wait. This is him,” said the woman.
Wouldn't you know, during our interview, the guy sent her another message. It was telling her how to now pay the taxes on her supposed winnings in order to finally get the $60,000.
"You will have to go to Walmart store and get Amazon cards of $500,” the woman read to us.
She didn't do that. Little did the scammer know, she had already gotten in touch with her real friend and her family. "I went to the brother and I started telling him,” said the woman. “He says, 'You know what? That is a scam."
"When you hear that it’s a scam, what goes through your mind?” we asked her.
“What goes through my mind is to get in touch with Channel 5,” she explained.
She immediately wanted to warn potential victims that even though they “swear on (their) life and the holy bible...the money will come to you in cash,” they're persistent (even texting again during our interview), and the people say they care. They don’t.
“It's terrible to try to use people like this,” she said. “I hope they get caught, and I hope that Facebook will get to this in some kind of way because this is what's happening."