Live 5 Scambusters: ‘Facebook friend’ lures Summerville couple into government grant scam

Live 5 Scambusters: ‘Facebook friend’ lures Summerville couple into government grant scam

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - If you see a “money for nothing” offer online or get a message on your phone, alarm bells should start ringing. If a family member or friend tells you about the offer, you may not be as skeptical. A Summerville couple learned just how far scam artists will go to lure you in.

In April 2018, Frances Fritch got a message on Facebook about a new government grant program. It sounded too good to be true, but the message came from an old friend.

“I worked with her and went to church with her,” Fritch said.

The friend shared an email address where Frances could find out more about this money giveaway. She received a replay from an “Agent Mark Robinson,” who welcomed her to the “Federal Government Grant Money Program.” According to the agent, Frances could qualify for $20,000 up to $3 million. Each level of grant did require a small payment for clearance and delivery fees.

While Frances was moving forward with the grant, her husband, John was skeptical.

“Something don’t sound right here,” John Fritch said.

While the couple may have had some doubts, her friend reassured Frances it was real. She claimed to have received her money and had already spent it.

John and Frances Fritch were lured into a government grant scam by a fake account on Facebook
John and Frances Fritch were lured into a government grant scam by a fake account on Facebook (WCSC)

Frances followed the agent’s instructions and sent $1,000 through Western Union, $1,500 in a MoneyGram, and then awaited instructions on the rest. Over the next few weeks, the agent also told Frances she owed South Carolina taxes on the grant money. Fees kept adding up and, before she knew it, Frances had sent $8,000 and had not received her grant money.

Frances decided to check back with her friend on Facebook Messenger. When she asked about contacting the agent, her friend had no idea what Frances was talking about. Someone had spoofed the friend’s account.

“I thought I was talking to her the whole time on Messenger, but I wasn’t,” Frances said.

Frances had been duped. The grant money wasn’t real and neither was the Facebook profile that convinced her to apply for the grant in the first place.

The Federal Trade Commission has list of warnings here if you question a government grant offer. You can use these rules to avoid becoming a victim.

If you have a scam story to share, email Kyle Jordan at Scams@live5news.com.

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