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By Stacey Menser
The Times Leader
A Caldwell County woman has lost over $1,300 in a scam and wants to warn others to be leery of Facebook “friends.”
Donna Bell was not surprised to receive a message through Facebook from retired Caldwell County educator Dale Faughn.
She was, however, confused by the subject matter.
On Sept. 27, Bell received a message from Faughn asking if she had heard about the “United Nations Poverty Alleviation program.”
According to the message, the program is designed to help “the old, retired, widowed, Disabled deaf and hearing (sic).”
The money, according to the message, was being distributed through the office of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), and select residents were being awarded $100,000 through the program.
Bell exchanged several messages with Faughn, asking more specific details about the program.
He told her he had been awarded $100,000 through the program and saw that her name, too, was on the list. He sent her a link where she had to go to claim her money.
Bell was apprehensive until she received a similar message from another Facebook friend, a Richard Deubler of Ohio. He too told her about the program, how he had been selected and thought her name was on the list as well.
That’s when Bell visited the site and began the process of claiming her money.
She began receiving messages claiming to be from Sen. Landrieu at that point and was told that in order to have the $100,000 transferred to her bank account, she had to pay a $1,250 fee. In order to pay the fee, she had to send it through Western Union. The Western Union fee was $111.
“So they got me for over $1,300,” said Bell, who became suspicious when her money did not arrive.
After many exchanges with the purported senator, she called Faughn.
“I received a call last Thursday and was told my name and picture were being used on Facebook,” said Faughn, whose granddaughter, Stacy Faughn Piper investigated the site.
“Stacy indicated that it was fraudulent,” he said.
Faughn also received a call from Bell and learned that his name and image had been used in what was now becoming clear as a scam.
Faughn said he had “dropped off” Facebook, and the profile posted under his name is not him.
The messages that have been sent, as well as friend requests did not originate from him.
Bell also tried to make contact with Senator Landrieu’s office to warn staff of the senator’s name and image being used as part of this scam. She was however unable to reach anyone because of the government shutdown.
Bell said she sees little hope in recovering her money, but wants to warn others not to get caught in the same scam.
Deputy Chris Noel with the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department said Bell is one of two local victims he has learned of this week.
“Anytime you feel you have been scammed or believe someone is attempting to scam you, please contact our office and we will try to verify if it is legitimate or not,” said Noel.
“This is a crime, regardless of how it came about through Facebook.”
Noel said in addition to helping individual scam victims, the sheriff’s department wants citizens to contact them so that they may spread the word to the public and protect others from becoming potential victims.
“I often tell people what my dad (Dale Noel) always said, ‘Trust but verify,’” said Noel.
The Princeton Police Department also received a recent report about an Internet scam involving “Mystery Shoppers.”
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” warned Rocky Howton, assistant chief of the Princeton Police Department.
Howton said those who have been involved in an Internet scam can visit www.ic3.gov, the website for the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which partners with the FBI.
Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission from the Kentucky Press News Service.