Hackers Using Facebook to Push ‘Government Grant Scam'

Veronica Gavia uses Facebook every day and got really excited when a message from what appeared to be a distant relative popped up on her app.

"I haven't had communication with her for two years," she said. 

And did her "cousin" ever have some news! She claimed she had just received $120,000 from a government grant.

"I'm thinking, "Well, OK, it's probably true if she paid off all her debt with this money. Then I can probably do the same thing,'" said Gavia. 

Before she knew it, Gavia was messaging a woman she thought represented the government, in charge of handing out grants. That so-called government agent told Gavia the more money she puts up front, the more grant money she'll receive.

The next day, Gavia wired the woman $4,000. And Gavia's promised cut: $153,000. All she had to do was wait at home for the day and UPS would make the delivery.

"It came to be 5 o'clock and that's when I kind of suspected a little bit 'what's going on' you know," said Gavia. 

She sent the woman several messages but didn't get a response until days later. That's when the woman told Gavia she needed $15,000 more.

"I said, 'Oh no!'" Gavia said. 

That's because she was slowly learning nothing was as it seemed. It wasn't even her real cousin. Someone had hacked that relative's Facebook page.

So Gavia contacted NBC 5 Responds Samantha Chatman for help. 

According to grants.gov, the government will never award grants to people who never applied and would never ask for a fee in exchange for a grant.

If you search "government grant scam" on Google, you'll see dozens of articles and complaints from people who fell victim to this scheme.

"I was real desperate to get this money," said Gavia. "I don't want anybody else to fall in the same trap."

Gavia said she reported this scam to the Mesquite Police Department, the FBI and Facebook. She said she's not the only one in the family that's been duped.

To avoid this scam, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

• Remember, the government will never ask you to pay a fee to receive a grant.
• When in doubt, visit grants.gov to find out if a grant is real.
• When you're talking to friends and family members on Facebook, make sure it's them. Pick up the phone and call them, especially if they're talking money.
• If you ever believe a page is hacked, visit the Facebook help center at the top of your profile.

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