/ 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.


Why should anyone believe that anyone should give away a substantial amount of money for following them on Instagram?

I cannot see any easy solution other than banning anything to do with money being posted on social media.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Maybe. I wonder if many of us are conditioned to accept something for little or no effort. Look at the number of people who queue up for Lottery tickets.

If there is a philanthropist wanting to give away money, I’m going to miss out.

“young people believe them”. Another very dubious generalisation. I give more credit to most people, young middling and old, for having common sense.

People do gamble, whether on the lottery, pools, horses, but this is more in hope of winning something than expectation, so suggesting we are conditioned to use little effort to get something does not, I believe follow for the vast majority.

I would not ban gambling, even though there are people who mis-use it, as some do other things. What I would do is make it less instantaneous so people think a little before using a credit or debit card to, in the main, lose their money and feed the gambling operators. After that, people need to be able to take responsibility for their own behaviour without interference from a nanny state.

I have just bought a line or two on the lottery. Just for fun – I can afford the outlay and will get by without a win. As it happens, I am in credit on this particular financial operation so mustn’t complain.

Nicholas Pye-Smith says:
25 October 2019

50,000 times $50,000 would be $2,500,000,000 which is eight times the amount of Julie Leach’s win!

🙂 If something does not look right it might be a scam.

It sounds to me as if this might be “too good to be true”. However, worth a punt.

I’m glad it was explained to us that “” this is how it works” otherwise I might have fallen for it and demanded compensation.

Peter Carroll says:
26 October 2019

‘Julie’ is very generous, you can only pay 6210 people $50000 before the money runs out.

Edmund Jones says:
1 November 2019

The old adage “A fool and his money are soon parted” is not so way off beam!

Osbaldo says:
17 December 2019

Hey how everybody doing I been stolen from this person she told me that she was going to send me same money that’s she wins and she send that I need to get a gift card and send that to julie so I send our $350 dollars so when I send the money know she’s tell let me that know I need to send our more money and now she what’s $400 dollars more to the irs so I what to recommend to the people be careful we’d this’s person!!!

Devin Spooner says:
23 December 2019

I was contacted by a scammer today on instagram under julie_leach_4370 . please report it if you are contacted. Its definitely a scam!

And theres another account now for 100k

Kelly Cross says:
10 February 2020

I got an email in my spam folder. How dumb do they think I am lol.

Rebecca says:
29 February 2020

This is still happening! I just got a message from one on Instagram today. I called them out and they are trying to convince me that it is not a scam. I even sent this article to them and they claimed that they posted it so that other people wouldn’t get scammed but that they are not a scam.

Maria says:
20 March 2020

I just got contact by this person so they ask me for my address,phone number and promise to send 50,000 and ask if I want it on cash or check 😂

I so wish this was for real, wouldn’t that be great if people were really this generous and kind to strangers. This might be a scam, I don’t know. I know that if I had a ton of money, I’d help other people too. If she is real, Thank you

Michael N says:
30 March 2020

I was contacted by this scammer today. I asked “Julie” to send me a picture of herself with todays date written somewhere on it and of course no response. Its a scam but I did have some fun before hand and acted like I was seriously interested.

Amilia says:
6 April 2020

Contacted today, April 5th. “Julie” is still at it.

Just got contact by this woman Julie Leach about giving away money a few mins ago I googled her and found this

Hi I’ve got a so called lottery winner saying hes sending me $ 15.000 just to help me hes asked for my name date of birth and address and phone number

Chris says:
13 April 2020

I was contacted by a scammer today on instagram under julieleach6380 please report it if you are contacted.

I’ve been contacted by a julieleach_foundation2020 saying she is giving away $30,000 and asked for my name, address, email and age…

Kp says:
7 May 2020

If you gave her your address, what could they do with it? If there is no bank account number?

John says:
15 April 2020
Lenora says:
20 April 2020

I counted at least 60 profiles of fake Julie Leach on Instagram. Anywhere from therealjulieleach to ones with numbers, etc. I have reported several as spam, since that is the only option. Stay safe! I hope Instagram gets it straightened out.

Jay says:
22 April 2020

This person just me yesterday and sent ask to sent messages today , i accepted it ,I thought was scam too

Jay says:
22 April 2020

It was pics of people I believe it was real and they got money ,I highly doubt that I under the name Julie 334617