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Crooks Pose as Starr Co. Woman's Relative Using Facebook Messenger to Pull Grant Hoax

1 year 10 months 4 weeks ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 November 18, 2019 2:48 PM November 18, 2019 in News - Local

RIO GRANDE CITY – A Starr County woman wants Facebook users to be on the alert of hackers using the company’s messenger to run a fake grant.

She fell victim to the ruse by giving the hackers her personal information.

The message come from profiles made to make victims believe they’re someone from their past, such as an old coworker or college friend.

It all starts with a notification from someone you apparently haven’t spoken to in a while is asking how you are.

In this case, the person sending the message was a Starr County woman’s family member.

“It sounded so sincere, because I thought it was my cousin,” said the victim.

When she hinted at the money troubles the person she thought was her cousin sent her a message detailing information on free grant money.

It was simple. Give the grant company a couple hundred dollars and receive more than three times the amount.

“If I would get $30,000, it would be $500. If I would get the $50,000, I would have to pay $1,000,” explained the woman.

She just had to text a number and give them personal information first.

“See this is where I gave them all of my information,” she said pointing at the message on her phone. “My full name, home address, date of birth, phone number and my income.”

The person on the other end of the texts said, "mums the word".

“I told them that I needed to wait and talk to my son and this was the response,” said again showed us her phone. “’Don’t let your son aware of this you receive it.’”

That’s when she knew she was a victim.

The Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission says no grant will ever ask for money or reach out through social media. Applicants need to go through an extensive application process, often taking months.

“They submitted the application and then they would notify me within 30 minutes and I was accepted,” said the Starr County woman.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS did some digging and contacted the number given to the victim. The two time we called there was no answer and no option to leave voicemail.

On a third try, we got an answer, but when we asked who we were speaking to – they hung up. When we tried a different number, they sent us a text saying their name was “Mullins Colbert,” a claims officer in charge of registering and distributing the grant.

They sent an attachment claiming to be a real investment company from Minnesota, but notice the attachment said it’s a government grant. As well as many typos.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, this is a red flag.

Government agencies communicate through mail, not on a social media site and they will not text anyone. Grants area also not given to individuals as a personal reward.

The FTC says if you’ve fallen victim to the hoax claiming to offer government funds to call 1-877-382-4357.

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