Scammers use Facebook, Donald Trump to con Phenix City woman out of thousands

Brenda King says when she thought she had won a $10 million lottery, she believed it had been a gift from God.

"I told everybody, God answers prayers, and he does. But this just wasn't one he answered," King tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton.

She says it all started a few years ago with a ping in her email inbox. The message was supposedly from a member of the Facebook team confirming her participation in an international site-wide lottery.

"I was confused at first, I said I never picked these numbers, I said this has to be a scam," King remembers.

However, she adds the scammers worked very hard to earn her trust. When she would get suspicious of one "Facebook marketing member", another would pop up authenticating the conversations. She says the emails claimed to be from none other than Mark Zuckerberg.

"He said he wasn't a scammer, because he would never want someone to do that to him," King says. "He said he is rich - richer than rich - and he said he wanted to give back to the people."

She says the payments started off small. A processing fee here, a tax there - all the while, the scammers were sending King messages like "God has blessed you" and "your winnings will get to you in good Faith."

"You give them any insight into your life and they will seize on it," says Kelvin Collins, the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia. "In this case, they preyed on her faith, her disability, she told them she was on disability, they found her need and it's heartbreaking. They found this person in need of this blessing and they used that."

After losing almost $4,000 over several months, King says the scammers decided to take things up a notch Friday when she received a "Facebook debit card" that required a $1,500 activation fee. To authenticate it - a letter supposedly hand signed by Donald Trump.

"My husband was saying it's not real, this and that, but then my husband said he Googled the signature or whatever, and he said he did sign that. That is Donald Trump's signature," King says.

A comparison to a signed executive order shows the signature does echo President Trump's. However, Collins says the con artists likely worked very hard to forge or copy it along copying the authentic White House letterhead and seal.

"I was surprised when she showed me everything she had, I've heard of scammers using this method, but we've never seen it in this office," Collins says. "When she started telling me the money she's sent them over time it started to make sense. They'll usually only put effort like this into someone they're getting money from."

Collins commends King for coming forward to report the scam.

"We talk to so many consumers who lose money to these types of scams, and they're not willing to report it. They're embarrassed, they don't want their family members to know about it, but they need to understand it happens every day," Collins says.

He adds if King hadn't come forward, the scammers would likely have continued targeting her for a long time.

"According to the letter, they were going to ask her for $19,000 in taxes to pay for the $10 million. They probably would have kept taking money from her for as long as she was able," Collins says.

King says she decided to come forward and speak to News 3 so she can help others understand how hard scammers are willing to work to take your money.

Collins reinforces the White House will never authenticate lottery winnings, particularly on any claiming to be international. He also adds to be cautious when anyone online asks for money to "authorize" or "confirm" winnings. Collins also says never expect direct contact with company executives.



Georgia News

Alabama News

Latest Stories

Video Center