You can imagine my glee when I received this exciting text message from Manuel Franco:
“I am Mr. Manuel Franco, winner of 768 million and Powerball Millions Jackpot, click here to see my winning interview https://www.youtube.com watch?v=sT2y1G7zC0 I’m donating to 200 random individuals. If you get this message, then your number was selected after a spin ball. I have spread most of my wealth over a number of charities and organizations. I voluntarily decided to donate the sum of 50,000 USD to you as one of the selected 200, to verify your winnings send (I WON $50,000 ”Your name and address”) text to agent in charge Joseph Davis at (909)918-6845. You must have a valid drivers license or STATE ID. Text the agent for the Requirements Form and delivery of your winning.”
Yippee! The easiest $50,000 I’ll ever make! That’s the actual text I got (complete with improper terminology, poor punctuation and typos). To verify the legitimacy of the text, I clicked the link and was taken to a YouTube video of the real, actual Wisconsin presentation of a $768 million check to a very real, actual lottery winner, Manuel Franco. Franco was flanked by various Wisconsin lottery officials and the Wisconsin dairy mascot (a cow who looks an awful lot like the Allen County Fair’s mascot, Moorice).
This text has to be legit, right?
Wrong! It’s a scam!
I received this message via text, but scammers have additionally used social media messages, phone calls or even emails to falsely inform people they have been selected to receive amounts of $20,000 to $50,000 or more.
Even though the check presentation was more than two years ago, scammers are still using Mr. Franco’s good name and good fortune to lure unsuspecting victims into providing their personal identity information and payment of bogus “processing costs.” The inclusion of legitimate tidbits, such as the video, lends credibility to their fraudulent efforts.
Unfortunately, the persuasive tactics of scammers often lead to big financial losses. Just recently, in our Toledo office, an 80-year-old man who had sent over $100,000 to “claim” his prize came in. The man talked with the president of that office for over an hour but was NOT convinced that he hadn’t won. The Toledo BBB official says they have been told the man continues to send money.
Here are some tips to spot this scam:
• You have to play to win. If you don’t remember entering the contest it’s a big red flag to get a message saying you have won a prize. If you are prone to entering contests, keep track of your entries so it’s easy to check if you legitimately won and to confirm your winnings.
• Never pay upfront fees to claim a prize. Legitimate sweepstakes and lottery organizations will never ask you to pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning. This includes “taxes,” “shipping/handling charges” or “processing fees.”
• Be suspicious of unusual communications. Real lotteries or sweepstakes will not notify you via text or bulk mail. They do not send checks in the mail without first confirming with you. If you have won, you will never be notified that you must respond within 24 hours to claim your winnings.
Obviously, the real Mr. Manuel Franco is not the criminal here. He worked at a Target store before he won the lottery. After his win, he did, however, give out some gift cards to shoppers.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.