UNION COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee woman recently received a text message stating she was the recipient of a Powerball winner’s generosity and would receive thousands of dollars for free, but there was a catch. The ploy is the latest text message scam popping up on cell phones.

Scammers are using the good name and good fortune of an actual Powerball winner. The text messages being sent seem sincere, but what the con artists are doing is trying to trick people into providing their personal information and sending money for bogus processing fees that will line their pockets.

Over the last several months, Wendy Moore has received text messages claiming she was among a select group of people sharing the wealth of a real lottery winner’s generosity.

“Out of two hundred from a Manuel Franco, and that I needed to text this number,” Moore said. “And tell them when I was ready to pick up my winnings.”

Excited about the possibilities, Moore responded to the message, asking what she needed to do, because she believed it was real. However, it was several weeks later before she was sent any details.

“Here it is October, I get another text message saying I am on a list of two hundred people that Manual Franco had won $768 million. And that I would receive $80,000,” she said.

It was two years ago in Wisconsin, when jackpot winner Manuel Franco stepped in front of the cameras to claim his massive Powerball prize.

“It was amazing, my heart started racing,” he said at the time.

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Scammers are using Franco’s good fortune to lure unsuspecting victims to surrender their money. Moore said as a fee, she needed to send them $550; as instructed by the scammers, she needed to pick up gift cards, take a picture of them, and text it to them.

Moore had a hunch there was something fishy about this so, she Googled the Powerball winner’s name, sure enough, he was legitimate but the messages about him sharing his winnings were a scam. She texted the scammer who wanted her money and challenged them.

“[I] sent him the things that I had found about Mr. Franco winning the lottery and the fact that there was a little paragraph beside it stating that there were people pretending to be Mr. Franco,” Moore said.

“I want you to know your winnings is real,” the scammer responded. “Don’t worry about that post we post that online cause they are a lot of scam using our name to scam people that’s why we decided the post that online so winner can be aware of it.”

Tips to avoid and spot this scam:

  • You have to play to win: Few people out of the graciousness of their heart will send you money.
  • Never pay upfront frees to claim a prize: Legitimate organizations will never ask you to pay a fee.
  • Be suspicious of unusual communications: A stranger texting or calling you out of the blue, real lotteries will not notify you via text.

The real Manuel Franco has nothing to do with the scam, even though the check presentation was more than two years ago. The con is lucrative because it’s gone nationwide. In one of her messages, Moore was given a phone number. She called it and it happened to be a woman in California who told her she received the same text, believed it, and sent $1,000 hoping to collect her winnings — of course, she never got a dime.