Better Call Behnken: Hillsborough woman contacted by ‘friend,’ scammer posing as Gates Foundation member

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Scammers use lots of ways to get your attention, but, this is a new one: posing as a Facebook friend to gain your trust and lay the ground work for a scammer to pretend to be with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

From there, you’re promised that you’ve been selected for a $60,000 grant. The catch is, you have to first pay $1,000 in taxes.

True, it sounds far-fetched. But, if you’re a teacher, and you’re familiar with the Gates Foundation’s generosity towards teachers, you may agree to hear more.

That’s what happened to a retired Hillsborough County teacher. She contacted 8 On Your Side to warn others. She’s not the only one.

8 On Your Side found posts on Facebook in recent weeks from others with similar warnings about this type of scam.

We went digging for answers and even found warnings on the Gates Foundation website:

“Unfortunately, scams claiming to be from or associated with the foundation are growing in volume and, in many cases, can be quite sophisticated. Our security team is working with law enforcement to make every effort to stop such scams, but unfortunately, we cannot stop them all.”

In the local case, the retired teacher received a Facebook friend request from someone she knew. She accepted, but later learned that the profile was fake.

It was actually the scammer, trying to gain her trust.

This “friend” messaged about receiving a $60,000 grant and told the woman she noticed her name was on the list, too.

Soon after that, the woman found herself messaging with a man who claimed he worked with the foundation. When he brought up the need to pay up front for taxes, she realized it was a scam. When she contacted her friend on the phone, she found that woman had no idea this was happening.


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