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Scammers pose as West Allis Powerball winner on fake social media accounts

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- When Manuel Franco from West Allis won the Powerball jackpot in April, it opened the door for scammers and con artists.

Criminals are using Franco’s name to create fake social media accounts aimed at taking advantage of people.

An Instagram account called @ManuelFrancoGivesBack followed one of our reporters. It advertised free money, writing in the bio “Follow to claim from my giveaway. Legit and free.”

There were posts showing what looked to be bank deposit confirmations.

So we asked Franco’s lawyer, Andrew Stoltmann.

“Manny Franco is not publicizing giving away his money to anyone,” Stoltmann said.

Geoff Gardiner, a cyber security expert who owns Rescue Dog Technology, says scammers like the one behind the fake Franco account try to lure people into conversation.

“The whole goal is to get you engaged enough so at some point you send money, give them information that they’re looking for,” Gardiner said.

The account had a phone number linked that never picked up when we called.

We traced it to a neighborhood in Queens, New York.

Then it texted back, and after some back and forth about how much he wanted to help people, the scammer asked for bank account information.

“If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably fake,” Gardiner said.

Searching ‘Manuel Franco’ on Instagram shows many more profiles of people posing as the jackpot winner.

The Instagram account blocked me soon after, but searching Franco's name shows many more profiles just like it.

"I kind of feel like I'm engaged in a game of whack-a-mole, where I will get Instagram or Facebook to take down an alleged account, only to have them change their handle or have new ones pop up,” Stoltmann said.

Police can’t get involved until money’s exchanged, because creating accounts and communicating with potential targets isn’t illegal.

“Anyone out there who is pretending to [be Manuel] is a scammer, a criminal, an imposter trying to steal money,” Stoltmann said.

To report an Internet scam, click here.

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