Gabby Petito's mom warns foundation targeted by cybercriminals who set up fake social media accounts to steal donations

SCAMMERS have been trying to pocket the money of those sending donations to the Gabby Petito Foundation, her family says.

Gabby's mom, Nicole Schmidt, issued the disturbing warning on Sunday, revealing that bogus social media accounts are being set up to swindle people out of their money.

 

“Our Gabby Petito Foundation page has been restricted.” wrote Gabby’s mom on Twitter.

“This is most likely due to all the fake pages that have been made already.

"Please be aware of that and we will get this resolved.”

The thieves have even pretended to as members of Gabby’s family with one person posing as Gabby’s dad, Joe Petito, on Instagram.

“We are here to appreciate you on our daughter,” wrote the fake account, who then asked for money via a donation through Zelle. 

Jennifer McNamara, who has been helping the family raise money, called the act "horrifying."

“People are at the hardest time of their lives right now, and on top of everything else that they’re dealing with, they have to deal with people scamming,” she said.

Steven Kuehhas, the Undersheriff for Suffolk County urged people to look for warning signs when being approached for donations.

People should be on the lookout for messages with misspellings and accounts with no followers. “If you have that feeling that there’s something amiss, then do not go with it,” he said.

An Instagram account for the foundation has been made but has yet to receive verification.

Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…

A benefit concert for the foundation was announced through the account to take place on October 17.

Gabby's parents previously said the foundation will be geared towards helping families of other missing people after their daughter's disappearance and death made headlines around the world.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, her stepfather Jim Schmidt said: "We’re just hoping that through our tragedy of losing Gabby that in the future that some good can come out of it."

Gabby's father Joseph Petito also acknowledged the "influential" role that social media played in helping spread awareness about his daughter's case, adding that it helped to bring her home.

'INFLUENTIAL ROLE'

"Social media was amazing and very influential, but to be honest it should continue for other people, too," he said. "This same type of awareness should be continued for everyone."

Addressing the media, he said he wanted to ask everyone to help "all the people that are missing."

"If you don't do that for other people who are missing, that's a shame," he said. "It's not just Gabby who deserves that."

The family's attorney, Richard Stafford, also said on Tuesday that the family was still working out the final details of its mission statement – specifically whether the foundation would help only missing children or adults as well.

"[Gabby Petito] was the bright light in everyone's life that knew her," Stafford said.

"Gabby's family does not want that light to dim, and they want to make some good from the awful tragedy."

FATEFUL TRIP

Gabby Petito was found dead at a campsite near the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on September 19, after a nine-day search.

A preliminary autopsy report ruled the manner of her death a homicide, but a specific cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Gabby had been around two months into a planned four-month road trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie, 23, when she was killed.

She was last seen alive on August 27. Brian then quietly returned home to Florida alone on September 1, failing to alert police or Gabby’s family that she was missing.

He reportedly acted “without a care in the world” upon his return, neighbors said, mowing the front yard and enjoying idyllic bike rides with his mom.

As reported by The Sun last week, he also went camping with his family at Fort De Soto Park on September 6.

Gabby was eventually reported missing by her mother in New York on September 11. Then, on September 14, Brian allegedly vanished after telling his parents he was going hiking at Carlton Reserve.

But they didn’t report Brian missing until three days later when police showed up at their home.

LAUNDRIE AT LARGE

Laundrie is considered a person of interest in the case.

He also has a warrant out for his arrest on bank fraud allegations after allegedly racking up $1,000 in charges on a debit card between August 30 and September 1 that's believed to have belonged to Gabby.

Law enforcement is still searching Carlton Reserve for traces of Laundrie, while TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter is scouring Fort De Soto.

Gabby's mom, Nichole Schmidt, tweeted for the first time on Saturday, writing: "Mama bear is getting angry! Turn yourself in!"

Brian Laundrie's parents, meanwhile, have denied helping their son evade police and have insisted they do not know where he is.

Their attorney Steve Bertolino said in a statement on Saturday: "They are concerned, but hopeful that he is found alive."



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