Facebook scam tricks Southaven woman; BBB responds

BBB warns of Facebook sweepstakes scam
Bonnie Sinclair (Source: WMC Acton News 5)
Bonnie Sinclair (Source: WMC Acton News 5)

SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC) - A Southaven woman fell victim to a Facebook scam and lost hundreds of dollars.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Bonnie Sinclair set up a Facebook page for her church. As she was working on the page, someone purportedly from Facebook sent her a friend request. The user went by the name Jeannie Marie Short and her profile claimed she was a Facebook Online Promo Claims Agent.

Sinclair accepted the friend request, thinking the "Facebook employee" could help her with the church's page. After providing short answers to the Sinclair's questions, Short told Sinclair that she had been selected as a winner in Facebook's Online Promo. She added that Mark Zuckerberg personally asked her to deliver the good news. Short told told Sinclair she won $95,000, if she paid for delivery fees.

"Be very careful who you friend on Facebook," Sinclair warns.

Short told Sinclair to send her a money order of $240 to an address in Kipp, Kansas. She also instructed her to take a photo of the money order and text it to her. She then said Sinclair would receive the money in 24 hours.

"I was stupid and went down and got the money gram and sent it to them," Sinclair said.

However, Short then raised the stakes. She said the IRS stopped the delivery until Sinclair paid taxes on it. When Sinclair said she did not want to send another $1,200 for the IRS fees, the pressure increased. Short sent pictures of other winners and continued to ask for more money.

Sinclair then received another friend request from someone named Middleton Thomas. That person claimed to be a special agent with the FBI, and he told her she needed to pay the required taxes on her winnings. He pressed her to send the additional money and sent her his "official" FBI card.

Sinclair said she was confused as to why an FBI agent would know about the conversation she was having with the woman from Facebook. She refused to send the funds and contacted the BBB.

"By then I done woke up, smelled the coffee and it was burning," Sinclair said.

"These crooks are persistent in demanding more and more money from victims who initially pay up," BBB of the Mid-South president Randy Hutchinson said. "Victims who send money once will continue to be hounded for more."

"They are not going to tell you that you won money," Nancy Crawford, Better Business Bureau, said. "Facebook does not give money away."

Scammers can easily reach people through social media sites like Facebook, and often pose as authority figures to make their pitch believable. If you add a scammer as a friend, they might have access to your personal information. That could lead to identity theft or fraudulent activity. Most likely, however, they'll be after your money.

BBB Tips to avoid falling for one of these scams:

  • Be wary of accepting friend requests from people you don’t know. Check out their Facebook profile first. A recently created page with little or no posts or other information may be a fake.
  • Never wire money or provide debit or credit card numbers or prepaid debit card identification numbers to someone you don’t know.
  • Report fake profiles and fraud attempts to Facebook by clicking on the 3 dots at the bottom right corner of the profile’s cover photo.
  • If you have been targeted by one of these scam, share as many details as possible on BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.
  • File a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.

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