BBB: Reports of scam impersonating West Allis lottery winner up more than 700-percent this year

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The local Better Business Bureau (BBB) office wants to spread the word about a scam that's growing in the local community.

The scam involves Powerball winner Manuel Franco, a West Allis man that won the multi-million-dollar lottery in New Berlin in 2019.

Scammers are reportedly targeting unsuspecting victims across the nation using Franco's identity, and the BBB wants to help get the word out to avoid anyone else being ripped off.

"This guy introduced himself as the Powerball winner," said Giulia Pegazzano. "I noticed that he had won the Powerball years ago." 

Pegazzano was almost a victim after imposters tried to scam her using Manuel Franco's identity.

"I just randomly had someone follow me one day and they sent me a message saying that they were selecting a couple of people just to give out money to people that are in need," said Pegazzano. 

The scammers found Pegazzano on Instagram. But after she was asked to share her personal information, she says she saw red flags.

Lisa Schiller, the director of investigations with the BBB, says these scams are growing. 

"Unfortunately it has worked, because the scammers continue to use his name to try to gain money and personal information from unsuspecting consumers," said Schiller. 

Thirteen-thousand dollars in losses have been reported to the BBB involving this scam alone.

"The uptick has been so large just in 2021, there's been a 730% uptick in scam alerts about this."

Scammers use social media as well as phone calls to contact people. A New Berlin woman recently reported they tried to get her to click on a link through a text message.

"Scammers use what works. If this scam continues to work they're going to use it for years to come," said Schiller. 

To avoid becoming a victim, Schiller says to always do your research and never give out your personal information, like your driver's license and Social Security numbers or banking information.

Franco's lawyer says the lottery winner is not reaching out to people and offering any money. 

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