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Facebook Hillsborough scam


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#1 smithdown

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 12:56 pm

HILLSBOROUGH disaster families and survivors were conned by internet imposters as part of a sick scam, the Liverpool ECHO can reveal.

A cruel web of lies was used to try to hoodwink those affected by the 1989 tragedy.

In a plot of scarcely- believable intricacies, characters were invented, a will faked, and a bogus funeral order of service drawn up.

Well-intentioned Liverpool fans, still traumatised by the Sheffield football disaster, spent months counselling supposedly genuine victims.

Merseyside Police have vowed to probe the alleged scam once reports are made to their hi-tech crime unit.

Our investigation has exposed how the fakers:

‘mocked up’ a convincing inheritance will that appeared to promise £250,000 for charity Hope for Hillsborough, fronted by a mum whose son, 15, was crushed to death
pretended a Reds fan had plucked up the courage to attend his first football match this autumn since the match in Sheffield 22 years ago
insisted to Hillsborough campaigners their own loved ones had suddenly "died" from cancer
cultivated "romantic" online relationships with the sister of one of the Hillsborough victims, based on the lie he himself was a Hillsborough survivor.
Anne Williams, who lost teenage son Kevin in the Leppings Lane crushes, was one of those duped.

Today, she told the ECHO: "I thought these people were genuine. Now I think, how could they be so cruel?

"Many survivors of Hillsborough helped them, or him or her, and gave their time and emotions."

The scam began when a Facebook user named ‘Sean O’Connor’ befriended Amanda Tootle, sister of Peter, who died at Hillsborough.

Claiming that his supposed brother ‘Max O’Connor’ was a survivor of the tragedy, the two became close and often chatted online.

Suddenly, as the pair planned to meet in person, news came through online that Sean had unexpectedly died.

That led to ‘Max’ starting to chat with Hillsborough survivor John Herbert about the sad legacy of April 15, 1989.

He described how he had lost his leg while serving in the Army, but he considered the football semi-final tragedy a "far worse experience".

Another Facebook user ‘Zoe’ was then introduced into the equation, the supposed sister of Max and Sean.

Eyebrows were raised after Max informed Anne Williams that his cancer-stricken brother had set aside £250,000 for the mum’s campaign.

The ECHO has been shown a copy of the document, written in convincing legalese by the fraudsters.

They had clearly done their homework, with mention of an executor, the charity number and governance tax.

Initially, Mrs Williams was delighted and speculated how the money could easily fund her push for a judicial review into Kevin’s death.

By this stage, however, friends of the Formby mum were growing suspicious and began to monitor the Facebook users behind the scam – potentially one and the same person.

Liverpool fan Julie Brannigan said: "I was starting to smell a rat.

"I told a pal, ‘You watch, something tragic will happen to Max soon.’

"Since then, a group of us have done a huge amount of research on these people.

"They seem to be professional trollers."

Internet trolling involves people hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to intrude into others’ grief.

‘Max’ started to talk of his plan to attend the derby match at Goodison at the start of October.

It would be his first game since the tragedy, 22 years ago, having stayed away from football because of the mental scars.

Well-meaning friends on Facebook wished him well, and anxiously waited for news the next day.

Sure enough, ‘Max’ came online afterwards, ecstatically proclaiming: "Had a GREAT day today, bit of a panic in the morning, but I did it!

"Very proud of myself, took lots of photographs, if I can get them off my camera, Anne, would you mind if I shared them with the group?

"YNWA all."

Friends were delighted for him, responding: "Proud of you, Max!’ and ‘Well Done, Max..Knew you'd make it :) YNWA x’

But days later, the plot was to change again as ‘Zoe O’Connor’ informed his followers that ‘Max’ had himself died from cancer.

Some were taken in by the lie, commenting, ‘This is so poignant.

"I'm just pleased that he got to go to the match yesterday. RIP’

But others had seen enough and publicly accused the fraudsters who were suddenly now on the back foot.

By this stage, the ‘trollers’ were on a rescue mission to save their scam, insisting the characters were real.

"But, the lie had been exposed and Facebook was informed as some Hillsborough survivors prepared to inform police.

Another Facebook user emailed a supposed order of service from Max’s ‘funeral’ in a very rudimentary A4 paper ‘mock-up’.

The ECHO has followed developments for the past six weeks and raised the problem with both Facebook and Merseyside Police.

We have a dossier of evidence and witnesses which can be passed to officials when requested.

Police told us they had power to pursue the Hillsborough impersonators and asked for those duped to report any allegations.

John Herbert, 45, from Litherland, who survived the Hillsborough crushes, described how he felt ‘cheated’ by the scammers.

He said: "I shared some personal stuff with Max about the tragedy as he seemed to be genuine.

He was telling me how he was ‘up’ one day and ‘down’ the next. He said he’d served in Afghanistan, but Hillsborough was worse.

"I got suspicious at the end as I would never be speaking to ‘Zoe’ and ‘Max’ online at the same time, it was always just one.

"Now, since they’ve been exposed, they’ve disappeared and their accounts have been disabled."

When the ECHO contacted a mobile phone number for one of those suspected of being involved, she said: "I don’t know anything about this."

Pressed further, she eventually admitted knowing some of the impersonators online, but ended the call.

The mum even tried to pin the blame on another Facebook user, an innocent party, known as a genuine fan who works in Anfield.

http://www.liverpool...00252-29811210/

#2 stressederic

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 02:26 pm

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#3 ManxRed

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 11:21 am

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#4 aka Dus

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 11:51 am

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