Report: After MacKenzie Scott gave away billions, scammers began preying on vulnerable in her name

MacKenzie Scott. (Elena Seibert Photo)

MacKenzie Scott made a philanthropic splash in 2020 by giving away more than $5 billion of her vast wealth to a variety of organizations. In a new report this weekend, The New York Times details how scammers have followed in Scott’s footsteps, targeting the vulnerable with promises of more financial help.

Scott, the author and ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, made gifts last year of $1.67 billion in July and more than $4 billion in December to hundreds of non-profits, universities, food banks and others, with no strings attached. One of the richest people on the planet, her move is part of the “Giving Pledge” to give away the majority of her wealth to charity.

The Times reported that having no foundation, public website or way to reach her and her representatives has made Scott’s efforts ripe for scammers. By seemingly gifting large sums of money to organizations out of the blue, one expert called Scott’s method a “gift” for the criminals involved.

The Times spoke with a woman in Australia who was duped into believing that Scott was reaching out to help her deal with her family’s financial problems. Fake emails, membership forms and bank websites convinced the woman to spend money on associated fees that would unlock $250,000 from Scott that was allegedly already transferred to a bank account for the woman.

It was all a scam and the use of cryptocurrency made it impossible for the woman to recover money she spent. The story details fake Facebook and Instagram pages set up in Scott’s name and other attempts to target people via email.

A person with knowledge of Scott’s giving told the Times that Scott’s organization would never request fees upfront from grant recipients. The Times said the person declined to comment directly on online deception taking place in Scott’s name or what actions she might take to help prevent it.

“I understand she probably wants to be left alone, and I could imagine why she hasn’t got a website or anything. I could imagine all the messages she would get,” Danielle Churchill, the victim in Australia, told the Times. “Although what she’s doing is great, her not having a foundation or a website is destroying people’s lives. We matter, too.”

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