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Facebook International Lottery Scam

On Thursday 7 May, I was contacted on Facebook by someone claiming to be Sheridan Maura who advised me I had won $950,000 in a Facẹbook Lottery).

If you look carefully, you can see the “e” in Facẹbook has a cedilla – there’s a hint right away that this might not be totally legit.

A quick Google turned up quite a few explanations of this hoax – because, of course, that’s exactly what it is. I found the Hoaxslayer page on Advance Fee Lottery Scams to be particularly useful, noting that it is not limited to Facebook and “is just a reworking of the classic “Nigerian” advance fee scam” (I still have an actual pre-Internet Nigerian scam letter). The basis of this scam is that the target has won some massive prize but must meet the costs of having the prize delivered to them.

Comments on the “Lottery” Facebook page show that this version asks victims to pay $500 to cover Fedex costs of delivering their “winning certificate”.

The Facebook International Lottery scam page Now that we have the web, the opportunity exists to create a web page of some sort to “prove” the authenticity of the program. Even then, it has to be something credible. In this case, hooking it on Facebook meant it was trading on both the authority of the social media giant and that Facebook would be in a position to make such a prize available. You can see for yourself that the Facebook page for the “Lottery” has plenty of posts with photos of supposed winners, positive comments and Likes. If you see any negative comments they will have been posted today and will be removed by tomorrow.

Knowing now what I was dealing with, I decided to have a chat with “Sheridan” and see where it would take me.

Sheridan: Good day

My name is Sheridan Maura, I am a Facebook Online Coordinator i live in Texas

I contacted you because I have good news for you concerning your Facebook account from Facebook

Have you heard of the ongoing international lottery promo going on yet?

Has any of our Facebook staff informed of your winnings prize

Me: Hi Sheridan, no I’ve never heard of the international lottery promo. What is it?

Sheridan: I am pleased to inform you of the result of the just concluded annual final draws by Facebook group in cash new year promotion to encourage the usage of Facebook worldwide. Your name was among the 12 lucky winners that won the sum of $950,000.00USD (Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars) each on the Facebook group promotion

The online draws was conducted by a random selection of emails you were picked by an advanced automated random computer search from Facebook in other to claim your ($950,000.00USD) the lottery program which is a new innovation by Facebook, is aimed at saying a big thank you to all our users for making Facebook their number one means to connect, communicate, relate and hook up with their families and friends over the years.

Me: Really? That sounds amazing. And, if you don’t mind my saying, a little hard to believe. What’s required of me, Sheridan, what’s involved in claiming my prize?

Sheridan: This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some participants and scam artists. All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from over 20,000 companies and 30,000,000 individuals email addresses from all over the world. This promotional program takes place every three years. You may be rest assured that this is real and legal. There are some scam artists around but thanks to the FBI, 86 of them have been arrested.

Hope you understand?

I have been appointed as your claim officer so i can take you through the claims of your winnings Ok…

Me: So what’s involved?

Sheridan: Do you have any government approved ID Mr Ricky

Me: Sure. I hold a current Australian passport.

Sheridan: OK very well.

How old are you Mr Ricky

Me: I’m 55, Sheridan.

Sheridan: OK

Hold on a sec please

Are you ready to claim your winnings of $950,000.00USD now?

Firstly, your award is attached to Lucky Number (FB-225-36), Ticket Number (FB-172-60), Batch Number (FB-02/544) and Serial Number (08-2014)..

Note them down now on a safe place and keep its very important. Let me know when done putting it down.

Now you are required to forward me your full home address were you want your winnings delivered to so i can quickly forward it down to the Facebook claim head office for confirmation and complete processing of your winnings Asap…

Me: Can I ask you, Sheridan, does claiming a prize involve my forwarding you any money?

Sheridan: Not at all Mr Ricky

Me: You’ll forgive me for being a bit cautious about this, but how do I know this is legitimate?

Sheridan: You can see photo of our lucky winners on our Facebook page.

Me: I can see photos of people holding up cards saying Thank You. And I can see a grainy photo of a man with a great deal of money in front of him. And I can see a photo of a woman taking delivery of a box. She seems very happy.

Sheridan: She has receiving her prize.

Me: Why is she having money delivered to her in a box?

Sheridan: That is part of our securitys protocol.

Me: I see.

Sheridan: I will guide you through the successful delivery of your winning prize

Your winning certificate will be sent to you

Me: In a box?

Sheridan: And you can call our head office at anytime if you would be needing further assistance

Now you will be required to contact Mr.Mark Zuckerberg via email head for the disbursement department for the claims of your winnings.

Send an email from your personal email account to Mr.Mark through this email address now [email protected] with the information about you below and also attache a copy of your government approved ID

Full Name:
Residential Address (Not P.O Box Address):
Phone Number:
Occupation:
Marital Status:
Sex:
Age:
Email Address:

Once he gets the email with the information from you he will let you know how your winnings will be disbursed to you as soon as possible.

Me: Sheridan, are you telling me that Mark Zuckerberg – co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook – is also the disbursement officer for this promotion? And that he uses a Gmail address?

Sheridan: Sure

Every information reaches the Facebook head quarters

We are working in collaboration with Google

We are doing everything possible to make sure each winnings get to the actual winner

Me: Well that would be about the first time that Facebook collaborated with Google on anything. Are you sure you want to continue this conversation, Sheridan?

Sheridan: Sure.

If there is any question you want to ask just ask ok

That’s why I was appointed anyways

This program is done once in every three years

We collaborated with Google for security reasons

Me: So you’re based in Texas? Are you an American citizen, Sheridan? Grew up in the US?

The "Sheridan Maura" Facebook pageSheridan: I am an American citizen I grew up here

Me: Why is your grammar so poor? I would expect someone who works in such a position for Facebook to have exemplary grammar.

Sheridan: Why did you say so

Anyways just give me some time

I’ll be right back

I want to quickly attend to a complaint

Me: Sure, I have a couple of things I’d like to check, too.

Sheridan: Meanwhile forward your details now to the email address sent to you earlier so we can Commerce the safe delivery of your winnings

Me: “… so we can Commerce the safe delivery …”? It does not appear that English is even your first language, Sheridan.

Me: You are coming back, aren’t you, Sheridan?

Me: Sheridan? Are you there?

Me: Is this goodbye, Sheridan?

Chat conversation end

The scammer has decided I’m unlikely to participate and ends the conversation.

Reporting the scamEach Facebook page has the option to Report it, which I did, selecting the “This is spam or a scam” option. That results in a “We’re sorry that you’ve had this experience. Here are some things you can try to resolve this” message, with the only option being to hide the page. I assume a report is made to Facebook but, judging by the comments on Facebook’s help forum – and the fact that this “Lottery” page is still there after four or five days, that doesn’t actually do much.

I also sent an email to [email protected], as this is a form of phishing. I received no response.

I posted an account of my conversation on my Facebook timeline, mainly for laughs, which it duly received. But a couple of comments also made me think a little more deeply about it.

The fact is people can and do take these scams seriously, and lose money to them. The scam’s fraudulent nature might seem obvious to those of us who are willing and able to do a little checking and are skeptical about anything that claims to make us overnight millionaires, but there are two strong drivers that can motivate some people to put aside their doubts and choose to believe the scammers: greed and desperation.

Frankly, I’m not too concerned about people driven by the first motivation. $500 might seem like a small investment for a well-off Westerner who is prepared to gamble on receiving a much larger windfall. These people have given their cash and bank account details to scammers from time immemorial. The fact is, like spam, scams work. Typically, these victims will not come forward when they realise they’ve been conned. They hide their embarrassment and write off the loss as bad luck. Data shows there are plenty of them and, even though these scams have now had a great deal of publicity, they continue to throw their money away.

What’s of greater concern is people driven by the second motive, people whose financial situation is close to disastrous, and whose desperation blinds them to the danger signals. They are prepared to sacrifice their limited assets in the hope, the belief, the dream that they have been lucky, that they have drawn the fabled Golden Ticket that will solve their problems. It is to these people that Facebook owes a duty of care, carries a real responsibility to hunt out the scammers and prevent them from using the biggest social connector the world has ever seen to rob the innocent and guileless.

I don’t see Facebook doing that. And that’s appalling. Ultimately, it’s not a joke and Facebook needs to take it seriously.

I can only hope that this post might help a few people to avoid the scam. Obviously, you should not supply the details requested, and you should definitely not forward any money. I’d also like to hope that this post might influence Facebook to take firmer action.

But I doubt it.

18 Responses to Facebook International Lottery Scam

  1. Mary wilson 22 September 2015 at 6:05 am #

    I had the very same thing happen this am I sent in info but luckily realized it was a scam and sent no money 9/21/2015

  2. nikki remedies 8 October 2015 at 2:58 am #

    I had a sheridan maura send a friend request. Claimed to be a civil engineer. Widower 2 kids. I was his only friend. He claimed he was new to facebook found my profile and fell in love. It was very crerpy. I deleted rreported and blocked him.

  3. Nicolas M. Kandalaft 12 October 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Gentlemen, Roper Dawn Michelle sent me a friend request on FB last Sat after midnight. I accepted. Later, she wrote saying almost the same stuff I’ve just read. She inserted a picture of an 80,000-dollar-cashier’s check to my name from REGIONS BANK. I was asked by agent George Raasch to remit 300$. I said I only had 80$. They accepted provided I remit the balance after receipt. I ended yesterday’s conversation saying I had to do some checking. I noticed their poor grammar, use of wrong words like ‘unbehave’ instead of ‘on behalf’, matter not conducted professionally, nothing official and in writing. She kept using the word ‘sir’. I checked and realized that I was about to fall victim to this pair, a few thousands will be good enough though. Thanks for the information and the lucky escape.

  4. Christina Smith 15 December 2015 at 7:14 am #

    I just got her a couple days ago talking through messenger. Trying for the same. This helped tremendously. Had a suspicion. This concluded it. Thank you !!!

  5. Danny Mize 19 December 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    She or he or it is working on me right this minute. Says they are from California. Son of Bitch done pissed me off.

  6. Betty Basile 18 January 2016 at 12:52 am #

    This has really helped- was contacted yesterday saying that I have won 650,000.Now I know that it was a scam
    .

  7. Frances Mayo 29 January 2016 at 10:08 pm #

    Robinson Crystal is trying right now, already know it’s a scam, got to mess with her!😁😁 I told her my Lawyer has to approve all, but she’s typing am for real trust me okay, I promise you will be happy within 7 hours okay😈😈😈😈àDam, guess she caught on that I knew she was a scam! All just remember as my Dad always told me, nothings free in this world, so when someone says you won money but have to send money to get the money their giving you, it’s a SCAM, RUN, BLOCK, and never give personal info to someone who approaches in that manner!😴😴😴😴😴😴 sweet dreams to all

  8. dawn 31 March 2016 at 11:19 am #

    I’m sitting here now talking to sheridan and same stuff as above just going to go along here see what’s going on

  9. David from down under 28 April 2016 at 2:56 am #

    There is another 2 ppl running this exact scam. One is mary jane rossi wich even shows her job title is as “online claiming agent for facebook” surely facebook security would flag that job description.
    Anyway i had some fun with her even suggesting id fly from pretty much the other side of the world to come collect so i wouldnt have to pay the fedex fee…my god the woman thought i was serious does she even know where australia is and how much the plane trip would cost..pmpl
    The 2nd guy is running the page facebook international lottery promotiom..which i did think was more likely to be legit then the woman above..so i contacted him just to get some verification and what do you know…not only did he tell me to block Mary Jane but that he also checked and yes indeedy instead of winning $600,000 as Mary had told me i lost a cpl hund thou as my winning now was only $450,000 according to him…omg pmpl i feel really sorry for the vulnerable and desperate ppl that fall for these scams..its absolutely despicable.

  10. Jaylene Osman 29 April 2016 at 4:16 am #

    I’ve just been contacted by a mr Thomas A Mathwig & he told me I’ve won &250,000.00 & I had 2 send him $9,500 2 retrieve my mega lottery winnings , he’s given me all these names & address’ s 2 send fees off 2, I told him ” look sir im a single mum & carer of my disabled daughter & no family ‘ & I hope this isn’t a scam ??, & of course he’s saying no & getting other ppl on Facebook 2 contact me 2 reasure me, this has just happened & still in the works , I want the F.B.I & facebook 2 take b the names & bust them in Nigeria & the state’s..mega lottery also has had their name & company used…..im angry even after telling him my position with my daughter, he’s still insisting it’s all 4 my own winnings, he’s even dropped the $9,500 fees down to $500, ehich is what makes me think well if it resl ???, omg that could really help….but slapping myself seems more logical….well, im a tough aussie female & hope they get caught….I thought since they’re dtill in touvh with me through messenger , that facebook & police can catch them now, he’s even tried to phone me twice…..

  11. Jane Robinson 4 May 2016 at 7:33 pm #

    It’s still goin on. Received one of these from Hoke Wynn. Reported him to Facebook twice. Told him to stop bothering me. It’s scary yet Facebook do not respond about it at all. I did not fall for it as I think I have general internet smarts. It’s like being street smart these days, you just don’t know who you are talking too. I think it’s crazy Facebook don’t pick up on these people & they seem to keep doing it. Now I will not click on anyone I do not know and tell my friends.

  12. Jane Robinson 8 May 2016 at 12:00 am #

    I have now waited for a response from Facebook after reporting Hoke Wynn a couple of times to them and all they could say to me is that they do not think someone who is clearly false advertising their company is a community issue to them! This only just happened to me this week & from now on I am blocking people I certainly do not know from MY account for good. I noticed that they said something like people just use the block button because they want power, in one of their option menus under security, but really, you’d think their antenna would be lighting up if people had to use it all the time. It’s really shouldn’t be good news to them that people can so regularly steal people’s personal information on there.

  13. Sue johnson 22 July 2016 at 3:18 am #

    Hi l was contacted by a Sarah Louise Williams who also told me l had won a money prize in the facebook lottery and l come from England l went through all the questions that they asked you when they asked me to send money to pay for fed ex to deliver the cheque l declined and no longer heard from her since then l can no longer access my facebook account and have temporarily been blocked from facebook has anybody got any ideas how l can get back onto facebook as l cannot contact them personally

  14. Ricky 22 July 2016 at 8:24 am #

    Hi Sue, it is entirely possible that your scammer made a complaint about you and that’s why you’re blocked. This page might help (you don’t need to be logged into FB): https://www.facebook.com/help/community/question/?id=795694627122975

  15. Misty Kissell 7 August 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    This is nonsense. I was contacted by a man named Briggs Richard Miller. If you look up his name, he’s right on fb and it says right under his name “Facebook Lottery Agent”! The first time I was contacted by him was over 6 months ago, and he almost had me convinced. Him and some other Lady that Mrs. Darlene, The agent. I am on low income and disabled myself. And six months later, they got ahold of me again! Almost convincing me to try and borrow five hundred dollars from someone because my prize was still there waiting for me. I’ve still got them on hold if the F. B. I. and Facebook would work, in conjunction together, to catch them!

  16. Glenda stewart 19 August 2016 at 9:57 pm #

    I was also contacted by to women who said I won $700 thousand dollars from the machine that picked me and other winnings send $450 for fee and then send money by flexed then I get message saying got held up at customs need to pay $1200 dollars fee then they will get it to my door then won’t end bank account I’ve got the two women’s names they shoe face book ID I said how come Jr. Mark has not sent a message to us they said he is to busy I was bit a bit weird so I went on iPad and found some many saying they worked there at face book then they said it’s all above broad f.b.i now about it and money coming to you it’s safe

  17. Svenne from Sweden 5 September 2016 at 2:09 am #

    I just been contacted by a lady said I won 650000 and I contacted Fb but no response she still wants my adress and mobile number

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