Knoxville man staves off United Nations pandemic relief fund scam

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Coronavirus scams are on the rise; government agencies like the IRS and the Social Security Administration have issued warnings about scams that are out to take your money.

Now, the United Nations has issued an alert about con artists who post phony claims on Facebook about the so-called UN Pandemic Relief Fund. A Knoxville man recently received one of those messages.

Scammers are experts at shifting tactics, taking advantage of every current event hoping to catch you off guard. This is especially true as they take advantage of anxieties and real issues related to the coronavirus. One of the latest phony messages uses the name of the United Nations. The claim is free money given directly to Americans, but it’s a big con.

“She sent me a message that she had received $30,000 from a foundation,” said Chas Johnson. Johnson has health issues and he’s in debt. So, when he received a Facebook message two weeks ago, he was interested. The text message from Hillary Myers suggested the UN has a Pandemic Relief fund from which he could benefit.

“I had been talking on Facebook, that I had a lot of bills and had a lot of health issues. And this person must have read my thread. She told me that she had received 30-thousand dollars from an organization associated with the United Nations, ” Johnson said.

He was told the money would come with no strings attached, he wouldn’t have to repay anything. “And with no health insurance, $30,000 is like winning on the Price is Right. I thought, wow.”

It was a year ago when Johnson could no longer work as a salesman. He says, “I started going to the doctors and found out now I have congestive heart failure and atrial-fibrillation. I can’t stand for more than ten minutes where I start feeling real weak, so I have to sit down. I have almost $21,000 in back bills. So, $30,000 would have helped. This where the girl is telling me everything is fine. She is sending me the application. They wanted me to send my driver’s license front, my driver’s license back and my social security card.”

Johnson knew better than to follow those directions. “I’m glad I check it out and glad I called you because otherwise, all they would done is steal my information. They wouldn’t have gotten anything since I owe so much. Still, it’s the fact that it would go against a credit rating I’m still trying to build back up. It’s, it’s a sad world.”

The United Nations has issued a fraud alert regarding this scam. The UN says it’s aware of correspondences circulated by e-mail, text messages, and regular mail falsely stating that the organization offers funds to individual citizens.

The UN does not offer prizes, awards, funds, or conduct lotteries. The UN says beware these scams may seek to obtain your money or personal details. Johnson says after he researched the so-called Pandemic Relief fund he contacted Hilary Myers again. “Nobody ever heard of this, nobody. So, when I questioned her about it, she got mad at me and blocked me. A lot of red flags, you just have to use the old noggin.”

There are many similar scams out there just like the one Mr. Johnson received. If you get an unsolicited call, or email, or a Facebook message claiming to offer COVID-19 related grants, or stimulus payments, all in exchange for personal financial information, or an advanced fee, please do not respond.

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