CHICAGO (CBS) — She thought an old friend was reaching out on Facebook to tell her about a $100,000 grant she could get for a $1,000 fee.
But CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports, a Zion mother of two soon learned she’d been scammed.
“I got used. I got tricked.”
Gretchen Furlan said she received this Facebook message from a person she thought was an old childhood friend. He told her about a grant through the Lion Club International Foundation. He told her all she had to do was pay a $1,000 clearance fee to receive a $100,000 grant that she wouldn’t have to pay back.
And that it wasn’t a scam.
“He’s like, stop worrying, I’m not here to hurt you or your family,” Furlan said.
The man soon connected Furlan with a woman who approved her $100,000 grant.
“She told me to buy two gift cards at Walmart. Prepaid gift cards,” Furlan said.
She put $500 on each Walmart gift card, then sent the woman photos of the them.
“I told them, that was almost my rent money and they still said, ‘We’re still not gonna hurt you.'”
Soon after, she feared the worst.
“Something in my gut told me to check the prepaid cards,” Furlan said.
She said the money was all gone. She has two children, six year-old Matthew and three-year-old Nathan. Matthew has special needs. She’s also on public assistance and said she used her stimulus money to buy the gift cards.
“Now my kids are suffering without this money and I can’t even buy them bunk beds now to sleep in,” Furlan said.
Similar scams using Lion Club International have been done in the past. The legitimate organization Lions Clubs International even put out warnings in 2016 and 2019 telling people about phony Facebook pages promising grant money through the foundation.
“I don’t want other people to get the same way, but what they did was really wrong,” Furlan said.
After filing a police report, Furlan said she hopes Walmart will reimburse her for the money she lost. She thinks her childhood friend’s Facebook account was hacked, because three accounts were found under his name.
Walmart released the following statement regarding the incident:
It’s upsetting when a customer is the victim of consumer fraud. We’ve worked to deter criminals’ sophisticated schemes designed to target innocent people and avoid detection through associate training and awareness, in-store signage, technology enhancements, educational brochures and videos and online resources discussing various types of scams. No one is immune from this criminal activity, which is why we are continually evaluating our policies and procedures to help protect customers from crimes associated with our financial services.
Among many systematic policies we have in place, there are measures in place to limit the face value and restrict the number of select cards which can be purchased. We don’t share details about our policies and programs to keep that information out of the hands of criminals who are getting more and more sophisticated and are continually trying to circumvent our processes.
A Walmart spokesperson also said information on their gift cards and how to spot scams can be found on their website.