Locals snagged by grant funding scam circulating on Facebook

By Tabitha Evans Moore | Editor & Publisher

This is an actual conversation between a member of The Lynchburg Times staff and a Facebook Messenger scammer on Friday. Our editor was one of dozens targeted through the popular social media app. (Graphic from Facebook Messenger)

LOCAL NEWS — It seems like an innocent enough message.

“Hello? How are you doing today?”

It came in as a message request, which was odd. Facebook Messenger uses message requests to allow you to send a message to someone you aren’t already friends with on their site. I thought Carrie and I were already friends but I responded anyway. I’d been sick for that past week and “Carrie” was just the sort of thoughtful local who might check on me out of the blue.

“Aren’t you sweet?” I responded. “I’m feeling better. Less grumpy so that’s a bonus. Thank you for checking on me.”

This is when things got weird. Suddenly, Carrie started talking about the GGF program. Knowing that this was completely out of character, I immediately knew I was talking to cloned account … a bot probably. So I Googled ” GGF program scam” and I wasn’t disappointed.

Global Greengrants Fund scam messages became such a problem earlier this year that the real Global Greengrants Fund posted about it on January 17:

WARNING: There has been a scam going around on Facebook where accounts have been approaching individuals as “agents” of Global Greengrants Fund saying they can provide funding. These accounts are NOT in any way affiliated with Global Greengrants Fund, and they should be ignored and reported. As a reminder, we are an environmental and human rights nonprofit that gives small grants to activists recommended to us by a network of expert advisors. We are NOT a financial assistance program for individuals. Please remember to not give your personal or bank information to any solicitor on Facebook. If you are a victim to one of these scams, please notify the police and/or the FBI.

Apparently, it’s a scam that been circulating on Facebook Messenger for several years. And here’s how it works according to the Better Business Bureau. You get a Facebook Messenger chat or Instagram direct message that looks like it comes from a look alike account or cloned account of a friend, relative, community member, or other person you trust. The message is telling you about free grant money. Your “friend” may claim to have already applied and received thousands of dollars.

Once they’ve hooked you, they’ll forward you a link where they will harvest you personal information or they’ll ask you to pay a “delivery” or “processing” fee to receive your grant money. It’s a scam and you should report the account.

Always report abusive content or spam on Facebook. In Messenger, click the downward arrow to the right of the person’s name then scroll to bottom and choose “Something’s Wrong.” A separate menu should appear and you can choose the appropriate thing to report. For example, for a cloned account, you choose Report Pretending to Be Someone Else and then time your friends name.

If someone has cloned or made a look alike account using your name and profile photo, you can follow this link to report it. You should also immediately change your password.

Metro Sheriff Tyler Hatfield says there’s little his office can do to prevent the solicitations and even if you do get scammed, the perpetrators are often overseas and difficult to track.

“Always use smart online security practices like changing your password often, not using the same password for every account, and never giving information or money to someone you do not know on the Internet,” Sheriff Hatfield says. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}