OMAHA, Neb. — Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa is warning that if you are on Facebook, watch out for scams using Messenger. BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker/us has been receiving dozens of reports about con artists using Facebook Messenger to promote phony grants.

A woman from Papillion, Nebraska, recently reported to BBB Scam Tracker that she lost $2,000 after receiving a Facebook message from a scammer who had hacked into her cousin’s account. The message, which she believed was from her cousin, said she had received money through Lions Club International, and that it was a legitimate grant. Her “cousin” gave her the agent’s name and phone number to contact through Messenger. After much urging by her “cousin”, also through Messenger, she applied for the grant. Of course, she was told that she qualified and would receive the money after purchasing four $500 Amazon gift cards at a Walgreens and sending the “Lions Club agent” pictures of the cards.

Regrettably, she followed the instructions and then was told by the “agent” that the cards had not been activated. After returning to the store, she was informed by the manager that they had been activated, and she had been scammed.

According to Jim Hegarty, BBB president and CEO, “This is a common scam exploiting the ties that Facebook users have with other Facebook ‘friends.’ Scammers will ‘hack’ or replicate a user’s account, then send messages to everyone on that person’s Facebook friend list. This increases the chances that someone will fall for the scam, because the message came from someone they thought they knew.”

Legitimate notifications of prize winnings or grants do NOT come via social media…and it is illegal to require a fee to collect a prize. Unfortunately, this victim and many others like her believe the message is legitimate, and they never call the real person to make sure the message was from them.

How to Protect Yourself from Grant Scams

• Be wary of online messages. A person may be trustworthy in real life, but online accounts can be hacked, and sometimes friends share things first. Be sure to call the person you believe the message is from to verify that they are the sender. Regardless, do your research before sharing, applying, or donating and be sure to check the offer out with your local BBB.

• Research the organization. Ask for the charity’s name and look it up. If you can’t find a website, it’s most likely a fake. If you can find a website, look for contact information (no contact info or different contact info is a red flag).

• Press for details. Ask questions to confirm you are actually talking to someone you know. Then, find out who runs the grant, where it’s from, how it works, and why you qualify. If your “friend” can’t give you straight answers, beware.

• Report suspicious activity to Facebook. You can report scammers to Facebook to help protect your real friends and family from a scam. You can reduce the risk of having your profile impersonated by tightening up your privacy settings and hiding your Friends list. Do a “Privacy Checkup” by clicking on the question mark at the top of your Facebook home page.

For More Information:

Facebook is a BBB Accredited Business. Learn more about avoiding scams on Facebook at facebook.com/help/1674717642789671.

If you or someone you know has been scammed, you can report the scam at BBB Scam Tracker to help alert and protect others.

For more information, follow your BBB at bbb.org and on social media:

• Facebook — www.facebook.com/todaywithbbb/

• Twitter — https://twitter.com/TodayWithBBB

• LinkedIn — www.linkedin.com/company/betterbusinessbureau

• Instagram — @TodaywithBBB

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