What if a friend sent you a private message telling you about a way to get thousands of dollars? It must be true - right? A friend wouldn't defraud you. The Better Business Bureau says it's one of the latest scams going around.
CANANDAIGUA — A Canandaigua man learned that not every Facebook friend is really a friend.
Chris Hilarski is enjoying retirement after a decades-long career at Eastman Kodak Co. Many of his friends worked at Kodak, too, including a man who reached out to him Friday on Facebook’s messenger app.
“He asked me, just wanted to know how I was doing, and I was so surprised,” Hilarski said. “I got right back to him.”
The friend, Kevin, told Hilarsky he’s happy because “God has answered my prayers.” He claimed he got a $90,000 federal grant from the International Monetary Fund and UNICEF.
“Why would they give you a $90,000 grant?” Hilarski asked incredulously. He said Kevin told him he could also apply by clicking on a link.
″’You’ll get a friendly knock on your door,” Hilarski remembered Kevin writing.
But Hilarski didn’t click on the link. Instead he googled and found information about scams involving the International Monetary Fund. So Hilarski warned his friend. But Kevin insisted it wasn’t a scam writing, “Of course it’s real.”
“He (Kevin) keeps trying to encourage me to get this link,” Hilarski said. “Kevin’s not that way. I’m saying this to myself, ‘I have to make sure this is really Kevin.’”
So Hilarski asked Kevin questions that the real Kevin would know how to answer.
″’What building did we work in together?’” Hilarski typed to his friend.
That’s definitely a question that Kevin should know. After all, the two friends worked together at the same Kodak building for some 30 years.
But Kevin didn’t answer the question. That’s because the messages were not really from Kevin. It’s a scammer using the real Kevin’s profile picture. There are tell-tale signs, including the fact the scammer misspelled Kevin’s name. The scammer spelled it K-e-l-v-i-n, instead of K-e-v-i-n.
The scammer sent Hilarski a number to call. Daily Messenger news partner News10NBC called the number and got a voicemail. The scammer refused to call back.
Instead, a text message was sent saying that in order to get a $10,000 grant, a clearance and processing fee of $550 must be paid.
Bingo. That’s how scammers get their money. You pay the “processing fee” but never get the grant.
“You never should have to pay for anything that you’ve gotten as a grant or a winning or anything like that,” Hilarski said.
A Facebook spokesman said the matter is being investigated.
The Better Business Bureau has gotten lots of complaints about the scam and offered the following suggestions:
Never apply for a grant through Facebook. The government will communicate by mail but not Facebook.
Never pay money for a government grant.
If you have questions, pick up the phone and call the governmental agency.
If you suspect Facebook fraud, report it to Facebook.