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How Nigeria-linked scammers are defrauding people using MacKenzie Scott’s name

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Scammers have latched on to the recent philanthropic drive of MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to help people deal with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least a scam ring has a fictitious website it uses to defraud registered by a Nigerian web hosting company.

MacKenzie Scott acquired Amazon stakes valued at $58 billion as a part of her divorce settlement with Bezos. She pledged to give out the majority of the wealth to charity, dishing out nearly $6 billion in 2020 alone.

To distribute the gifts, Scott did not rely on any known foundation, headquarters or public website. There was no known way to reach her representatives either.

She, however, enlisted a team of advisors to identify organisations that are helping people cope with the impacts of the pandemic.

Scott has been praised for her method of giving because it helps move money faster to those who need it.

“The pandemic has amplified an imperative in getting money out the door as fast as possible,” Benjamin Soskis, senior research associate at the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, told AFP.

“She has emphasized giving money and getting out of the way,” Soskis said.

“Philanthropists often see themselves as part of the process, with multiple checks and evaluations and metrics which can be really burdensome.”

But the method is now being exploited by scammers who are conning people out of their money using her name. And scammers with ties to Nigeria have been fingered in the elaborate plot.

The New York Times reported the case of a struggling Australian mother of five who was defrauded of over 10, 000 Australian dollars after being led to believe that she had been given $250, 000 by MacKenzie Scott.

Danielle Churchill was in dire need of financial help when she was contacted by the fictitious MacKenzie Scott Foundation in 2020.

With her son diagnosed with autism and in need of special education, and her mother on dialysis, Churchill thought a $250, 000 gift would help solve her problems.

To claim the nonexistent gift, Churchill was asked to fill “membership form” sent to her and to set up an online account with Investors Bank and Trust Company.

In the account, she could see $250, 000. But because she was in Australia, she was asked to apply for a tax number and to pay specified fees before she could start accessing the money.

Churchill did her research about MacKenzie Scott charitable deeds. She saw fake Facebook pages, WhatsApp messages and web pages.

Unknown to her, Scott does not have any social media presence apart from her verified Twitter page (with just three tweets posted) and a Medium account.

Scott also does not give money directly to individuals. Instead, she focuses on universities, food banks and other charities.

But Churchill was not aware of this. She was not also aware that Investors Bank and Trust has folded into State Street Corporation more than 10 years ago, New York Times reported.

Before she could detect the fraud, she had been scammed of about $7, 900 sent through a Bitcoin app, which effectively put paid to her being able to reclaim her money.

The fake website – ivbntc.com – used to con her was registered in Nigeria by WhoGoHost, a Nigerian web hosting company.

A contact person said on Monday morning that the company was not aware of the activities of the website and asked that an email should be sent to abuse@whogohost.com for more information.

“We already got a report on the website and we have taken down the website,” said Omotola A
Lead, Admin and Compliance at WhoGoHost said in an email on Monday. “We are currently investigating the website and once we finalize our investigation, we will give a response to the appropriate authority.”

The website has since been suspended by the hosting company.

What we know about the ivbntc.com
The website was first registered on October 2, 2020, and set to expire on October 2, 2021. Details provided for the website showed that the registrant listed 18, San Carlos, Los Angeles, California, as the contact address.

A Google Maps and Apple Maps searches of the address showed that it is fake as there is no Number 18 on the specified street.

However, a Google search for ivbntc.com showed another listed address – 3007 Sarah Drive Franklin, LA 70538, which is also listed for a number of possibly fictitious banks – with extremely limited digital footprint – also used the same address when registering their websites.

For instance, a Lichfield Bank is listed to be operating from that address. According to British Museum, a Lichfield Bank operated between 1765 and 1855. The bank which claimed to operational in the United States is not listed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which “insures deposits; examines and supervises financial institutions for safety, soundness, and consumer protection.”


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