Susan Tompor: Fake Facebook fundraiser shocks family with cancer diagnosis

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

Facebook also warns consumers about a form of donation scams where the con artists impersonate "famous religious figures, or by accounts pretending to be representatives from various charities or orphanages."

A scam that goes just a bit too far

We've all heard of romance scams, lottery scams and inheritance scams where crooks play with your emotions to make you think you've found the love of your life or hit the jackpot.

But impersonating your brother Joe to get dough? And making you fear that he's in a battle for his life? This, friends, hits a new low even among slimy scammers.

It seems like a new twist of sorts of the "Grandma Scam" where someone calls your house pretending to be your grandchild — or niece or nephew — and then tells an upsetting story about being in the hospital or in jail.

Scammers mine social media or even buy information from data thieves to craft rich, believable stories. The con artists often know the name of your relative or friend to make the scam more convincing.

Make no mistake, the grandparent scam is ongoing. Earlier this year, the FBI reported that the scam was making the rounds in western New York where the so-called grandchild claimed they had been in a serious car accident.

The grandchild, based on the scam, always needs money now to post bond.

As part of the scam, the potential victim will even end up talking to phony attorney who will direct the grandparent to go to their local bank and withdraw a large sum of money, maybe as much as $15,000 in cash, to put the cash in an envelope, and then to wait for a courier to arrive at their house.


In some cases, the FBI notes, ride share drivers might unknowingly play a role in the scam by picking up the envelope.

Many people could be facing high medical bills during the pandemic, as well.

Early in the pandemic, many scammers would play up COVID-19 concerns, said Alex Hamerstone, director of advisory solutions for Cleveland-based TrustedSec.

Scammers, he said, will even rip off a name or story from the headlines to create a fake account to steal donations from a legitimate fundraising effort.

One of the problems, he said, is that Facebook accounts are fairly easily created with simply a phone number and an email.

"Facebook does not do anything to check that the phone number is associated with that name," Hamerstone said.

In general, he said, it's best to try to verify the fundraising account, perhaps by calling a friend or family member before making a contribution.

Many of us, of course, are all too eager to help, especially when it comes to a beloved family member or friend. Yet, making an extra call can save you a great deal of heartache and money.

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