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Special Report: Protecting yourself from an age-old phone scam now making its rounds on social media

It's an age-old phone scam that is gaining new traction on social media platforms like Facebook. Now, The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin says it's a growing problem and thousands have been impacted.

It's known as the 'Fake Government Grant' scam and it has robbed unsuspecting victims of thousands of dollars online.

It started with an intriguing Facebook message from a trusted friend.

"He got a hold of me and said he qualified for this grant for 85 or 95 thousand dollars and the agent that signed him up for it, he wanted to have me call," said Bradley Schmitz who was targeted by the scam.

The opportunity peaked Bradley Schmitz's interest and he messaged the man who called himself Agent David Paul claiming to work as a contractor with the government. 

"The information they asked me for was my name, birthdate, bank I bank through."

Schmitz divulged that personal information to the man through Snapchat at his request.

"Within a half hour, I was accepted and then $80,000 dollars," Schmitz said.

But, then he quickly became skeptical when he received another message. "It took two days to be delivered to his door and it just didn't sound right."

At that moment, Schmitz thought he might be being duped and he called his friend.

"What do you do, how do you do it? And he had no clue what he was talking about."

It turns out Schmitz's friend's Facebook account had been hacked.

"We've received about 5,200 of fake government grants to our BBB scam tracker," said Lisa Schiller with the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

Schiller says it's a common phone scam that has found new life on social media and under the guise of a trusted Facebook friend, unsuspecting people are handing over a lot of money.

"The private message may be coming from a friend of yours, that is a friend of yours, someone that you've known."

Schiller says the online thieves are very convincing and the offer usually sounds too good to turn down.

"They're saying they have extra money. It's guaranteed. You will receive this free money. All you have to do is supply some information about yourself and make a small payment."

Many times the scammers give the con artist their money through a wire transfer or reloadable gift card.

Fortunately, Schmitz did not let it go that far and hopes his story will help others.

"To warn people before they lose their life savings or put themselves in a horrible situation."

Schiller says the government doesn't typically call, text, or Facebook message you so you should be leery and never give out any personal information. If you've been a victim of a scam like this, you're asked to call the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin. 

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