DETROIT - You've heard the saying “you can't believe everything you read.” That's especially the case on Facebook and other social media.
If someone reaches out to you with an offer that sounds too good to be true, you better be on high alert.
Scam artists targeted Kathleen Breish when she was especially vulnerable. Breish was in a rehabilitation facility recovering from some medical problems when she received a message on Facebook from a friend she's known for 15 years.
"She said that she got her $9,000 grant from the government — she said, ‘You need to do this, Kathy.’ She says, ‘You really need to do this the day you come home, because the funding may stop,’” Breish said.
What she didn't know at the time was that this is one of the most common approaches scam artists will use on social media.
Instead, Breish said, she had applied for a government grant in 2014, and she hoped the $9,000 was connected to that previous application. There was a catch: She was told she would have to pay almost $1,000 through a MoneyGram, and then the check for $9,000 would be delivered. One friend thought it sounded fishy.
"But I said, ‘My friend guaranteed me that I would get my check within six hours,’” Breish recalls. “I says, if it wasn't somebody that I knew really well, I wouldn't have done it.”
The check never came
This is where Breish made one of the biggest mistakes you can make when you get an unusual message on Facebook, other social media, or via email or text. She never contacted that friend in person or by phone to confirm the story.
Breish ended up sending $1,000 to a scammer. The larger check, as you can imagine, never arrived.
"I now know that people can impersonate people you've known for 15 years," said Breish, still shaken by the whole deception.
Beware of impostors of all kind
Breish later found out her friend's Facebook account had been hacked a few times in the past. That's why it seemed like she was chatting with a friend on Facebook.
Whenever you get messages about money or anything else that seems too good to be true, you have to do some additional research.
Investigators have done stories in the past about scammers posing as celebrities, and posing as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, offering prizes from the site. The goal every time is to rip you off.
What can you do?
The most important thing you can do to stop these scammers is more research before giving anyone money. If a "friend" appears to be offering you the chance of a lifetime, call that friend at a number you know is correct — or even visit that person face to face.
Whenever you hear about some easy-money plan, do some research. Run a simple internet search and you'll usually see that other people have been scammed.
Whenever anyone asks you to pay by MoneyGram, prepaid debit cards or other methods that cannot be traced, realize that is a huge red flag. No legitimate businesses ask for those quick, untraceable payment methods.
Finally, don't be afraid to talk to other people about the offer — and really be prepared to listen.
"I would say to other people, 'Call a friend, call a relative, a son or a daughter that's younger than you and wiser,’” Breish said.
If you suspect you're being scammed, you can reach out to the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker to see if other people have experienced similar problems and report your situation. By sharing information with others, we can all work together to fight the scam artists trying to steal our money.
2016 Click2Houston.com/KPRC 2