Scammers create unexpected pain for families mourning loved ones

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Three families dealing with unimaginable losses after their loved ones died suddenly and tragically in recent days say they are now dealing with scammers.

It’s been an emotional week in Barron County, Wisconsin as the community mourns 14-year-old Evah Garcia and 15-year-old Winter Brouillard killed last week in a roll-over crash.

Both families said they’ve had to create new fundraising pages after scammers made what appears to be various spoof accounts trying to solicit donations online.

“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 with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS an Instagram message sent to people requesting online payments and gift cards, that pretended to be the family.  

“We’re very, very disappointed,” Bailkey said. “That people are trying to take advantage of us.”

Gabriel Mendoza’s family created a fundraising page for his funeral after the security guard was shot Sunday night while at work in Minneapolis.

Hours after the family set up their GoFundMe fundraising page, Mendoza’s sister told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS 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,” Mendoza’s sister said.

She asked 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS not to use her name since the shooter has yet to be found.

The FBI warns that after high-profile tragedies scammers can strike—adding if a charity or organization asks you to donate through cash, gift card, virtual currency, or wire transfer, it’s “probably a scam.”

More tips on safe fundraising from the Federal Trade Commission can be found here.

The three families mentioned above have shared with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS their current fundraising pages:

Gabriel “Dino”Mendoza


Winter Brouillard

Previous coverage of the Barron County crash can be found here.