GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — A disabled vet and his wife are out thousands of dollars after thinking they were getting a government grant.
Mark Yates spent 22 years in the Air Force, retiring out on a disability.
He recently joined Facebook to try and keep up with old colleagues.
“I’m not used to Facebook,” said Yates. “I haven’t been on it long.”
Earlier this month, he got a Facebook message from a person who he thought was an old friend and colleague.
“He popped up and said ‘I’ve got a great deal. You can have a government grant, free money and you don’t have to pay it back,’” said Yates.
The friend claimed he received $30,000 within 24 hours of applying to a so-called “government agent” via messenger.
He gave Yates the contact info for the “agent” on messenger.
So, Yates applied for $50,000 via messenger after texting with the man through Facebook.
The “agent” told him to obtain $50,000, Yates would need to pay a $3,000 processing fee.
Yates said he didn’t personally fill out any information for the grant.
Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia asked Yates if he found it suspicious that no one asked him to fill out paperwork for a government grant.
“I didn’t feel that way, because I had faith in my friend,” said Yates. “He did it and it went through.”
Yates sent a $3,000 wire transfer to pay the so-called grant processing fee.
“We wait and wait and wait and then he gets back to me saying, ‘sorry, the IRS has decided you need to pay $6,500 prior to getting your money,’” Yates said.
The additional fee for the IRS was the red flag for Yates who then realized something wasn’t right.
Then, Yates found out the friend who supposedly messaged him had his account hacked.
“They took all our money,” said Kathleen Yates. “We’re both disabled and retired. It’s inconceivable this has been done.”
These fake government grant schemes are common and follow the same script.
Using a hacked account, they get you to make an initial payment, then hit you up for more and more money till you stop paying.
A week after Yates said he wanted his money back, the scammer was still messaging him trying to get Yates to pay the $6,500 fee for “taxes.”
Yates is now moving in a different direction.
He’s given up on dealing with the scammer and is going to the police.