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Muskegon pastor's social media page hacked, parishioner fooled in COVID scam

A scammer used a fake COVID grant to get a Muskegon woman to turn over personal information. She hit the brakes, called 13 ON YOUR SIDE when they asked for money.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Everlee Pinegar believed by applying for a COVID-19 grant she was following good advice from her pastor, but it wasn't him; just a scammer who cloned his Facebook page and was trying to steal her money.

"They're using high profile people that you trust as the bait," Pinegar said.

The thought of a COVID grant to cover some of her monthly bills sounded legitimate. After all, the application was included in a message on Facebook from someone she trusted. 

"I saw his face," Pinegar said referring to her pastor's profile photo. "It seemed like he was saying it's ok, go for this."

With one click Pinegar was led to a second Facebook page that included the photo of a woman who Pinegar believes was somewhere in Texas.

"And she's saying she's a Federal agent that's working for the government," she said. "There are some questions you have to answer."

With each question, Pinegar realized she was turning over important information about her identity. The scammer even convinced her to send a photo of her driver's license. Then using the Messenger app the woman asked Pinegar to start sending money.

"Send $3,000 for $100,000 and I said oh no what have I done," Pinegar said.

It's the kind of scam members of the Muskegon County Safe Seniors Task Force hear about far too often. The details change from time to time but Norton Shores Police Detective Jared Passchier says the scammers are always after the same thing.

"They're all trying to get your personal information and your identity. They try their best to gain your trust so that you'll give them that information and then eventually they end up asking for money," Passchier said.

Pinegar filed a report with the Muskegon Police Department. And knowing the scammer now has some of her personal information she also froze all of her financial accounts. And her pastor made a post letting his friends know his account was "cloned" and someone was "presenting false offers."

"It seemed so real," Pinegar said. "I just want to warn others they're very sneaky, they're cunning, you have to be so careful."

Additional information on the Safe Seniors Task Force in Muskegon County can be found here.

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