BBB warns of “Free Money” scam on Facebook

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A Lexington senior citizen lost $500 when someone she thought was a family friend told her via Facebook Messenger that she could get some “free government money” if she contacted a company offering the program and sent the required fee, according to the Better Business Bureau of Central & Eastern Kentucky.

She tells the BBB that the “friend” messaged her that she received money and that the victim could too if she contacted the company. The scammer used the name IFC, International Finance Corporation, and told her a $1000 was required in order to receive several thousand dollars. She purchased a money order for $500, which was all she had at the time, and took it to a bank to send to an address provided by the scammer.

The woman received texts from the scammers asking her to go to Western Union to send more money via MoneyGram. She felt something wasn’t right and contacted BBB. When she explained how the scam started, BBB staff told her that her Facebook “friend” was really a scammer that hacked or “cloned” her real friend’s Facebook account. There are no government programs that give money and grants to anyone who asks, and if there was, would not require fees.

“This is a common scam exploiting the ties that Facebook users have with other Facebook friends,” said BBB President Jack Frank. “The con artist hacks or replicates a user’s account, and sends messages to everyone on that person’s Facebook Friend list. This increases the chances that someone could fall for a scam, because the message came from someone they believed was a person they know.”

BBB found a website for a company called International Finance Corporation, based in Washington, D.C. that offers global development opportunities in developing countries. The number the victim has for the scammer has a Washington state area code. In many scams, con artists use names of existing businesses in order to appear legitimate.

Tips to help protect against Facebook scams:

-Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook Messenger, even if it appears to be from someone you know and trust…especially if it involves receiving or sending money.

-Don’t automatically accept new Facebook Friend requests with names you know without first verifying that the person isn’t already on your “friend” list. If he/she is, it could be a sign that his/her account has been hacked.

-To help protect your Facebook account and “friends” list, go to “privacy settings” and choose the option to make your “friends” list visible to “only me” rather than “public.”

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