Scammers Impersonate MacKenzie Scott, Target Needy People

A high-tech scam with many layers

That email you got from a famous philanthropist might not be real.
Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash

What happens when you’re a high-profile billionaire who’s announced a plan to donate nearly all of your money? Over the course of 2020, MacKenzie Scott donated $6 billion to various nonprofit groups and other charitable causes. The speed and directness with which Scott has embarked on this effort has left many observers impressed, with the feeling that she might transform the philanthropic space.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that a group of scammers have decided to profit from Scott’s charitable efforts, impersonating her representatives and using a high-tech system to divest already needy people from their money.

At The New York Times, Nicholas Kulish recounted the details of the scam — and its wider implications. The article begins with the story of Danielle Churchill, a woman raising 5 children near Sydney, Australia. She had sought money via a crowdfunding campaign to help with her expenses; last year, she received a message, ostensibly from the MacKenzie Scott Foundation, offering her a substantial sum of money.

Unfortunately, the person or people who had sent the message were actually scammers. And, as Kulish phrased it, “the scam involved not just the fake bank portal but counterfeit Facebook pages, WhatsApp messages and the use of a Bitcoin cryptocurrency app to whisk the money away.” That last one was, evidently, done so that banks and credit card companies could not take action to retrieve the stolen money.

The article offers a number of tips for how to recognize scams like this one — and this one specifically. There’s something especially egregious about scammers targeting people already in need, making this case particularly unpleasant.

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