How scammers defrauded a senior advocate using hacked social media and stolen pictures

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip via KGO logo
Thursday, December 23, 2021
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Learn the tricks scammers used to cheat a senior advocate out of her money and to steal her Social Security number

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- A painful reminder for all of us tonight from a woman who admits she should have known better. She's protected seniors from scammers for decades.

Unfortunately, those in the business of swindling people know where we are the most vulnerable. Once they find that vulnerability, they move in for the kill.

"Do you see this?" Shirley Krohn asks as she shows a certificate awarding her a $300,000 grant from the federal government.

She immediately thought of all the good things she could do with that money.

"I still had some ideas about buying a house for my grandkids, and what not. So, that sparked an interest in me right away," she said.

It all started with a message she received via Facebook supposedly from her friend "John" telling her he had received $200,000 from the government.

"No paying back on it because it's not a loan," he wrote on Facebook Messenger.

"This is a joke, right," Krohn responded.

"I paid off my behind bills," John said.

"It really sounds like a scam," she said.

Krohn has been advocating for seniors since the 1990s, educating them on how to protect themselves from scams just like this one.

But this pitch was supposedly from her friend.

"It's legit. I won't get involved if it's not legit. I'm always careful," he replied.

The idea of raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars proved too tempting. She let her guard down.

"Not a good decision on my part, but that's the way it was," Krohn regrettably said.

She reached out to John's contact, applied and was immediately approved.

"Congratulations, the prize winning money is $300,000," the agent wrote. "You have to make an upfront payment of $1,500 for the paperwork and delivery fee."

The agent advised her to purchase Google Play cards and take a photo of the front and back of each card.

Eventually she asked for a Social Security number and Krohn gave it to her.

She began to beat herself up when she learned from her friend John that his account had been hacked.

"When they said, 'You're going to get $300,000.' That was, wow. That was a moment of reckoning for me. Of course, now I know it was all foolish and I was very ashamed of it. But it taught me a few lessons, that's for sure," Krohn acknowledged.

7 On Your Side has confirmed the "agent" pictured is actually a FEMA employee whose image is being used improperly and without consent.

FEMA tells us it would never asked for payment via a gift card.

Krohn's advice for seniors? No matter how tempting, just say no.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody," she said.

She's especially concerned about giving her Social Security number to the scammers. 7 On Your Side put her in touch with the Social Security Administration, which advised her on how to protect herself.

Click here to learn more about Social Security fraud.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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