Scammers target grieving families in Minnesota, Wisconsin

Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

MINNEAPOLIS — Three families dealing with the heartbreaking losses of loved ones who recently died suddenly in Minnesota and Wisconsin say they have the added burden of dealing with scammers who are trying to solicit donations using fake online accounts.

In Wisconsin, the small community of Rice Lake is mourning the deaths of two teenagers who were passengers in a vehicle that crashed Oct. 10.

Fourteen-year-old Evah Garcia and 15-year-old Winter Brouillard were both students in the Rice Lake Area School District. The families of both teens say they have had to create new fundraising pages after scammers made what appears to be various fake accounts to solicit money.

Email newsletter signup

“I think it’s just disgusting for people to take advantage of this kind of situation,” said Emilie Bailkey, Winter’s aunt.

Bailkey discovered several fake Instagram accounts set up with her picture and name after Winter’s death.

Bailkey shared an Instagram message with KSTP-TV that was sent to people requesting online payments and gift cards, that pretended to be the family.

In Minnesota, Gabriel Mendoza’s family created a fundraising page to pay for his funeral after the security guard was shot Sunday night while at work at Fire House Uptown bar and restaurant in Minneapolis.

Mendoza’s sister says that hours after the family set up their GoFundMe fundraising page, someone created a spoof Facebook account with her image, and also created a direct cash payment link, trying to solicit donations.

“It just adds to the trauma that my family has to go through,” said Mendoza’s sister, who does not want to be named because the person who shot her brother is still at large.

The FBI warns that if a charity or organization asks you to donate through cash, gift card, virtual currency or wire transfer, it’s probably a scam.