Northeast Tarrant

Grapevine woman thought she won $150,000 because a friend on Facebook told her so

A 73-year-old Grapevine woman was bilked out of more than $1,000 in a Facebook scam, Grapevine police said.
A 73-year-old Grapevine woman was bilked out of more than $1,000 in a Facebook scam, Grapevine police said.

A 73-year-old Grapevine woman believed she was one of the winners of $150,000 from a promotion.

Her friend told her so on Facebook.

But police say the woman was bilked out of more than $1,000 because that friend turned out to be a con artist.

"She told police the only reason she believed the scam was because the information appeared to come from a trusted friend," police spokeswoman Amanda McNew said in an email.

A Reuters report last year indicated that one in 18 older Americans falls victim to financial fraud or scams each year, based on a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.

That report esimates that 5.4 percent of older adults experience some form of fraud or scam each year.

Officials at the National Council on Aging have called the scams "the crime of the 21st century" because older residents are thought to have significant amounts of money sitting in their accounts.

The Grapevine woman reported the scam last week and told investigators this was how it happened:

She got a message on Facebook from her friend saying the friend received $150,000 from a promotion and also saw the Grapevine woman's name on a list of winners.

The Grapevine woman clicked on a link, followed the instructions and sent a MoneyGram for $1,150 to the recipient.

The next day, the Grapevine woman called her friend about their winnings, and discovered it was all a fake.

The Grapevine woman believed that the con artist created a fake account using her friend's information.

"We applaud her bravery for reporting this crime," McNew said. "We know others are out there."

Here's a list from NCOA on 10 financial scams that target older residents:

1. Medicare/health insurance scams: Suspect may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them personal information.

2. Counterfeit prescription drugs: Generally, counterfeit drug scams operate on the internet, where older residents are trying to find better prices on specialized medications.

3. Funeral and cementery scams: Scammers read obituaries and call or attend funeral services of a stranger to take advantage of a grieving widow or widower, claiming the deceased has an outstanding debt.

4. Fraudulent anti-aging products: Many older Americans seek out treatments and scammers provide bogus remedies.

5. Telemarketing/phone scams: The most common schemes are when scammers make phony telemarketing calls preying on older people, who as a group, make twice as many purchases over the phone. Examples of these scams include the pigeon drop, in which a con artist says he has found large amount of money and is willing to split it; the fake accident play, when a con artist gets an older resident to wire or send money on the pretext that the person's child is in the hospital or in jail and needs the money; and charity scams, when money is solicited for fake charities.

6. Internet fraud: Older people are easy targets for automated internet scams.

7. Investment schemes: These cons include pyramid schemes, for example a Nigerian prince looking for a partner to claim inheritance money.

8. Homeowner/reverse mortage scams: Scammers like to target older people because many own their homes. One fraud sent personalized letters to different properties on behalf of the county assessor's office. The letter, made to look official, said the scammer would arrange a reassessment of the property's value, for a fee.

9. Sweepstakes and lottery scams: Scammers inform older people that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize.

10. Grandparent scam: Con artists will place a call to an older person, fake an identity of a relative like a young adult or grandchild and ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent or payment for car repairs.) The scammer will beg the grandparent "please don't tell my parents, they would kill me."

Grapevine police offered these recommendations when it comes to Facebook scams:

— Don't be embarrassed to call police if you fall victim to a scam.

— Never click on third party links if you are not expecting them.

— Always verify information by calling a friend or business directly.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-39-7763, @mingoramirezjr