JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. (July 21, 2015) – Johnson County authorities are warning about a Facebook scam that has claimed dozens of victims across the nation, including a central Indiana woman.
Earlier this week, the woman told police she had received a direct message from one of her Facebook friends. She said she hadn’t had recent contact with the man, but it was someone she had known for several years.
The “friend” told her that he had recently won $30,000 on a Facebook lottery page and her name was also on the list of winners.
“She was suspicious,” said Johnson County Sheriff’s Department Detective Alex Talley. “But she exchanged several messages with the friend and it appeared to be legitimate.”
But the woman didn’t realize that her friend’s Facebook account had been hacked, and she was exchanging messages with a scammer.
The woman went to the Facebook page, which is listed under the name “TJ Williams-Garcia.” After “liking” the page, she was given the “exciting news.”
“She was told that she had won upwards of 30,000 plus a laptop,” Talley said. “And was told that she needed to pay some money up front.”
Before she could receive her winnings, the the “TJ Williams-Garcia” page told her to send an $850 moneygram to an address in Chicago to cover taxes and fees. She sent the money, but never received the winnings. When she visited again, she was told she had actually won $90,000 and needed to send more money.
“That’s when she reported it and realized it was a scam,” Talley said.
Later, the woman’s Facebook friend told her he had never sent any messages about a Facebook lottery and his account had been hacked.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, never expects to see her $850 again. But she hopes nobody else will fall for the same scam.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the “TJ Williams-Garcia” Facebook page was still active. The page profile indicates it is based in Hawaii, but there’s no information on the site about who runs the page or the contest.
There are, however, more than 40 Facebook users listed as “friends” on the page. Potential victims, according to detective Talley.
“If you’re asked to pay taxes or fees up front, that’s going to be a scam,” Talley said. “Even multi-million dollar lottery winners claim their prizes first and then are required to pay the taxes to the IRS.”
Talley expects the case will eventually be turned over to the FBI. He’s urging everyone who uses social media to avoid the page.