A scammer offered a local man hundreds of thousands of dollars in a so-called Facebook lottery.
There was even video of his winnings! It started with a message through Facebook, anybody can pop into your inbox including fake people offering you prizes and cash.
$900,000 is what a woman named "Janet" told Len Badillo he won in the Facebook lottery. She even sent him video of a cash counter totaling up his money.
Badillo said he couldn't help but think 'what if?' "If it is real what am I going to do with the money? Started looking at condos. Or do I want to get a ranch you know."
"Janet" reached out through messenger and sent "proof" other people won, like pictures of them holding checks. Even video of a winner opening a package with cash inside. Badillo told us, "everything's going so great; I'm getting this big chunk of money then all of a sudden why are you charging me $375?"
That money would give Badillo his winnings by check. Or he could buy a $100 dollar iTunes card in exchange for an ATM card delivery. Badillo said, "it just seemed like such a hoax at that point."
Eduard Bartholme is the Executive Director of Call For Action, a national agency that helps consumers resolve a problem. He pointed out consumers have to stay on top of what's out there but also said social media can make an offer seem more legit because the crooks can share pictures and create fake accounts. Bartholme told us some of the awareness should come from people who've been hit by these crooks.
"Take ownership of the fact that this happens and we all have a responsibility to tell other people about it so they don't fall victim," Bartholme said.
And there are still a lot of victims. A new study by the Better Business Bureau found consumers in the U.S. and Canada lost $117 million last year to sweepstakes, lottery and prize schemes.
According to the BBB, Facebook's private messaging app is a favorite way for these fraudsters to find victims. It's free, and they can contact people through messenger who are not Facebook friends.
"Janet" told Badillo she's a Facebook administrator. Her profile shows she works at the company's headquarters. A fake profile Badillo feels is too easy for fraudsters to pull together.
"As far as fake accounts there has to be something done about that. It's too easy to make a fake account," Badillo said.
Claiming to be another person violates Facebook's community standards. A spokesperson told us it has developed several techniques to find and block these scams and "it's an area we're continually working to improve so that we can provide a safe and secure experience on Facebook."
There is something you can do right now to protect yourself. Set up something called two-factor authentication. It makes it harder for someone to take over your account. If you're signing into Facebook from an unrecognized computer or mobile device you have to confirm the login attempt.
- Two-factor authentification
- Avoid Scams on Facebook
- Block someone from Facebook Messenger
- BBB Report
BBB tips to help avoid lottery or sweepstakes fraud:
- True lotteries or sweepstakes don't ask for money before you claim a prize. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
- Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does have a sweepstakes but does not call people in advance to tell them they've won. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190.
- Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
- Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
- Law enforcement does not call to award prizes.
- Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face of fraudster pressure