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Government Agent Imposters Swindle Facebook Users, Making Them Lose $67 Million

Scammers pose to be government agents, providing federal grants and then, taking away their money.
Cover Image Source: Facebook users fell into the trap laid by the impostors posing as government agents (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Anete Lusina
Cover Image Source: Facebook users fell into the trap laid by the impostors posing as government agents (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Anete Lusina

Gift cards were once used to bring smiles on the faces of your loved ones, but nowadays scammers are aiming to steal money from gift card buyers. They lure victims into giving away thousands of dollars by buying gift cards. The scam's most lucrative catch is the promise of big prizes in the form of cash, but people just end up losing their hard-earned savings. One such scam happened with a man named Mike who was offered a huge prize of $200,000, but he was asked to pay an initial amount of $800 to get that prize. He was so excited seeing the number that he ignored all the red flags. The CBS 2 reporter asked out of curiosity what he would do with such a large amount, to which he replied, "Pay my bills," via CBS News.  

The child can't contain excitement on seeing her Christmas gift card. Image Source: Burst|Photo by Shopify Photos
The child can't contain her excitement on seeing her Christmas gift card (representative image) | Burst | Photo by Shopify Photos

Scammers are spreading their wings by taking down Facebook users, where they pose to be government agents providing federal grants and then, taking away their money. Mike came across the offer of receiving a grant of $200,000 from someone named Agent John Williams who asked him to pay $800 upfront to avail the prize. Mike was then instructed that he must pay in gift cards, to which he agreed and spent almost $2,000. But to his shock, his big payout never came, making him pretty infuriated, especially when a family member asked him to calm down and showed her winnings from this legitimate scheme. Post this, Mike also went to the Facebook page where the agent had posted videos of people getting huge prizes, which convinced him and he said to himself, "Wow. Ok. This is real!"  


A total of 575 Facebook accounts were operating under the name of Agent John Williams which didn't even have a real picture. Mike then showed all the receipts of his gift cards which he purchased from the Hillside CVS store and was disheartened on knowing that he was victimized in an imposter scam. Mike revealed that the Agent told him that he was asked to deliver these grants on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The reporter then contacted actual government employees who confirmed, "USAID does not solicit funding or grants through social media messaging platforms, and never requires an individual to provide any funding to work with USAID." The FTC who made a shocking disclosure by saying that people have till now lost $67 million to these government imposters sliding into Facebook users' messages.


There were so many identical accounts operating under the name of Agent John Williams and one of them even had an image of former President George W. Bush. The reporter then talked to the scammer asking them who they were, to which he replied the scheme was real and legitimate and even referred to himself as a "woman of god." The reporter then asked Meta to remove these fake accounts and the one that scammed Mike was taken down. Meta, in a further statement, said, "People who impersonate others on Facebook and Instagram violate our policies and we remove this content when it's found – like in this case. Our work in this area is never done, and we continue to invest in detection technology and work with law enforcement to prosecute scammers".


The most important thing users can do to protect themselves is report Facebook profiles if they detect suspicious activities. They must always use the Google Image Search feature to see if the same image is used on any other platforms. The most important lesson to learn from this incident is to never ignore the red flags when excited about the prospect of earning a handsome amount.