BBB warning: Impostors still posing as Powerball winner

CHARLOTTE — It appears scammers are still using a Powerball winner’s name to send out text messages, social media messages, phone calls or emails informing people they’ve “been chosen” to receive free money, according to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker.

In a release, the BBB said lottery scams like this make it seem as if recipients are about to receive a sudden financial windfall. But, instead, the people sending the messages are phishing for personal information or may simply be after your money.

Wisconsin resident Manuel Franco came forward in April 2019 to claim a $768 million lottery jackpot. Before winning the lottery, he was working at a Target store and after winning, he was known to personally hand out gift cards to random shoppers.

“This scam involves impersonators attempting to lure in victims to steal their personal information”, said Tom Bartholomy, BBB Serving Southern Piedmont and Western N.C. CEO/president. “This is dangerous. We’ve seen this before, and it will likely continue because con artists do what works for them.”

According to the BBB, there has been an uptick in this particular scam being reported -- 188 reports have been submitted to the BBB Scam Tracker from consumers across the country since 2019. In 2021 alone, there have been 175.

The BBB said the total amount of money reported lost in this scam is more than $13,000.

“I received a text saying, ‘I’m Mr. Manuel Franco, the Powerball winner in the Powerball Millions Jackpot. Click here to see my winning interview. I’m donating $50,000 to 200 random individuals. If you get this message then your number was selected after a spin ball,’” said Charlotte resident Juliana O’Rork.

Someone from Colorado told the BBB that he lost $3,200 when he sent $200 to “activate his winnings,” and $3,000 for the IRS ”as instructed in order to collect his winnings.”

He said he believed it, “because of COVID, I was desperate for money.”

The BBB has this advice to remind people to protect themselves from impostor scams:

  • Be suspicious of irregular communications, especially via text, email or phone.
  • Don’t provide money or information to people that you don’t know or that promise you money in exchange. You will never have to pay upfront fees to claim a prize.
  • If you are asked to prove your identity, it’s a scam.
  • Always report scams to law enforcement or BBB Scam Tracker

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