/ Money

Scam watch: lured by ‘lottery winner’ on Instagram

An Instagram account has been sending private messages promising $50,000 of lottery winnings to its first 50k followers. It’s a scam, and this is how it works.

Carl got in touch with us to let us know he’d been sent a private message on photo-sharing app Instagram. It read:

“I’m Julie Leach the powerball winner of $310,500,000. I’m giving out $50,000 to the first 50k followers and to those in need of help”

There are pictures of a lady collecting the winning cheque on the account itself.

Julie Leach was a genuine lottery winner in the US in 2015. Her name and image have since been abused by scammers via email and on social media.

Fraudsters often use genuine news stories and events to add plausibility to their story. In January, scammers were posing as EuroMillions winners Frances and Patrick Connolly on Twitter.

Multiple Instagram accounts

Our cursory search of Instagram revealed 20 accounts bearing the name ‘Julie Leach’ alongside promotional images of the genuine Julie Leach collecting her winnings.

The account that messaged Carl was still active and had doubled its follower numbers. We tried to report it via Instagram’s reporting tool, but found there was no specific category for scam accounts.

When we instead tried to report it as ‘impersonation of a public figure’, we were unable to do so unless we provided the genuine account username of the real Julie Leach.

Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) has confirmed that scams and fraud should be reported as ‘spam’. A Facebook spokesperson said:

“We are aware of this issue and will continue to look into this matter to disable any accounts in violation of our policies. The account you spotted has now been removed for violating Facebook’s community guidelines”

Impersonation of celebrities on social media

As our investigation has shown, scams impersonating celebrities on social media continue to crop up regularly.

The observation that this account had doubled its followers in an important one – more often than not accounts like this are sold on then rebranded and renamed once they’ve accrued a large audience.

This then makes its following vulnerable to whatever content the new owners may choose to post, including scams.

If you’ve spotted this scam or anything similar, make sure you report it. If you’re concerned that you may have given your bank details to scammers, contact your bank immediately.

You can also read our guide on getting your money back after a scam.

Have you spotted fraud like this on Instagram? If so, get in touch and help warn people in the comments.

Comments

I am SO SICK AND TIRED of these damn scammers [This post has been edited in line with the community guidelines (https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/) thanks – mods]

SJ says:
22 May 2021

I have been contacted on twitter by the said name for $50k – to post a cheque to my address – and now asking for a tracking number. Whats the next step?

SJ says:
22 May 2021

I have this guy [edited] asking me to get a tracking number to get a delivery. Will ignore his emails from now on. Thank you all

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to remove personally identifiable information, as this is not allowed in the Community guidelines. Please don’t post people’s names, addresses, or other personally identifiable information – even if you suspect it is made up. This is to protect everyone’s privacy.]

Big Rob says:
23 May 2021

Just got the “Julie” wants to give you a chance to be a winner scam messages at work this evening before closing. I have seen my fair share of scammers in my day, never once got nailed by one, I played along with it knowing I needed to look this up as soon as I got home after I was asked for $200……..After looking this up and finding this page and thread, the “perpetrator” was texting me saying “Im waiting.” Once I verified here this is the case I kindly responded “I bet you are waiting, and YOU WILL BE WAITING FOR ETERNITY if you are so stupid to believe I don’t already know this is a scam, GO SUCK ON AN EGG Hahahahahahahhahhahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaa.

Marci says:
31 July 2021

YES! I just got a pm on Instagram asking if I was ready to claim my winnings! I knew immediately it wasn’t real…and searched the scam online. I haven’t offered any info, but it makes me furious that people are doing this! Some poor soul will think they’ve won something!
This needs to be stopped and there needs to be an easier way to report and get some results!

Karen says:
4 August 2021

Just got the Instagram message asking me if I was ready to claim my $50K. The asked for Full Name, Address and email. My address was 666 Main Street, Hellbound, HELL 66666 and my email was gof@#$yourself@f@#$you.com – HAHAHA Reported and Blocked

Christa says:
25 August 2021

Received the same on Instagram from iam_officialjulieleach … played along. Received a text from a 424.501.0643 number saying his name was Mr. Sopinskip Edward.. his grammar was terrible. I looked up the number it’s located in CA and the name he gave is of a dead man… he asked for $200 to “activate my winnings and cover the cost of delivery fees”… my response was “ Your grammar is very poor and clearly this is a scam… I’ve reported you to the police. The name you gave me is of a dead man and it’s pathetic that you would try and scam a women who just had a baby and is literally broke with no money.”… blocked the number and reported the Instagram account. Pathetic!!!!

Gregory Chasteen says:
8 September 2021

The Julie Leach scam is still active on Instagram. The scammers just tried me today. I confronted them about it, even screenshotted this story and DM to them.. They weren’t affected at all, just kept trying to move forward with it. Here’s a little common sense:the scammers are claiming they are giving $50k to the first 2000 followers, but they never allow the account to reach 2000. That way they always have fresh people willing to follow. I mean, if they messaged you and said the first 2000, but by the time you checked they had blown the mark, (which they would in minutes if this was real)would you follow them? Exactly