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Arizona man falls victim to government grant scam

Posted at 4:38 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 13:13:43-05

ARIZONA — Warren Lee lives in his fifth-wheel down a snowy, secluded, mostly-silent road in the mountains of northern Arizona.

He says scammers made sure that's where he'll have to live for at least for quite a while longer.

"It killed me, it's putting me dead in the water," Lee says.

Warren thought a government grant of thousands of dollars would help him buy a new place in town.

A friend had supposedly messaged him about a huge grant just waiting for Warren.

"I was needing it so I could get a house, get into a better place, so I don't have to live out here in the woods and haul water and have solar power."

So when Warren made contact about the grant, he was told to send gift cards to cover a processing fee, which started at $5,000, but the scammers kept upping the fee, as they promised Warren even larger grants.

Before he knew it, Warren says he sent the crooks $9,800, nearly all of his available savings, for a fake $150,000 government grant.

"I was stupid, I messed up, that's what I'm into them for."

Warren finally found out his friend's Facebook page had been hacked, and that friend never knew it. The online crooks targeted his list of friends, including Warren. Scammers do that over and over, thousands and thousands of times a year, and usually red flags are screaming to get the attention of potential victims.

"If it's a close friend, it's a little more believable, but you might want to give them a call, if it's a close friend, you're going to have their phone number, give them a call, or shoot them a text message and say did you send this., is it really something you sent."

Bryce Marshall with the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa says scammers mining all those lists of friends can turn into a gold mine, even if those they hack, never give them a dime.

"I could see that being more much, much more than money because then you have tons of people's information, you can do with that stuff as you please, and it could be really dangerous."

And remember, in Warren's case, that hacked friend's information alone, was worth nearly $10,000.

If only, Warren says, he recognized the warning signs, before it was too late.

"I sure didn't, and I will for the rest of my life, I know what to look for, I learned the hard way, I guess."

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