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Local senior scammed out of hundreds by group posing as her ex-pastor

Scammer used Facebook Messenger to pose as prominent pastor and scammed woman out of hundreds
phone scam
Posted at 8:07 AM, Apr 25, 2022

LANSING, Mich. — A local woman says she was scammed out of hundreds of dollars by a group of people using Facebook messenger to impersonate her retired pastor.

Darlene Yarber is a member of Union Missionary Baptist Church.

Earlier this month she was contacted through Facebook messenger by someone posing as her former pastor, Rev. Melvin Jones, telling her about a government grant program she was eligible for.

The imposter sent her a link to apply and that’s when things were set in motion.

“I received this message on Messenger from Pastor Jones. Well, I thought it was Pastor Jones but apparently down the line I found out it wasn’t him," said Yarber.

During the exchanges, the "fake" Mr. Jones told Yarber that he had just received a $150,000 grant and she could do the same by clicking a link he sent.

That link connected Yarber with an “agent” who said she was eligible to get $300,000, all she had to do was send $100 gift cards.

But she never saw a dime of grant money.

“He kept saying FedEx truck is on its way to deliver my money. Then he said the FedEx truck broke down. They’re out of gas," said Yarber.

It wasn’t until Yarber showed the messages to a fellow parishioner that she realized she had been duped.

At that point she made a police report with the DeWitt Township police department.

She’s not sure if she’ll be able to recoup any of the money she lost but wants others to be on the lookout so they aren’t scammed, too. According to an AARP analysis of FBI crime reporting data, over $1.8 billion was stolen from older Americans in 2021.

“Scammers are really after them to get personal information that they can sell on the dark market or to actually get monies from them. So its incumbent on themselves and their family to protect that information," said Anne Holmes-Davis of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging.

Holmes-Davis says her agency works with other agencies to educate seniors. But she says seniors need to be their own advocates.

“What we encourage older adults to do is to make sure that they protect their private personal information and that they verify from a trusted source who is requesting something of them," said Holmes-Davis.

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Tianna Jenkins

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