Sowers Club of Lincoln name hijacked by scammers

The Sowers Club of Lincoln is warning others its name is being tarnished in a phone scam.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 10:27 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - An iconic Nebraska image is being misused by scammers to gain the trust of victims.

One Omaha man fell for it and lost thousands of dollars.

The Capitol Sower is a symbol used by a club that spreads financial goodwill across Nebraska.

“The foundation has distributed $3.5 million to over 300 different charities,” said John Campbell, the Sowers Club President.

The Sowers Club of Lincoln sells pickle cards to raise funds for grants.

“We would never ask for money to get your funding transferred, I don’t know of any nonprofit organization that would do that.”

But a series of texts claiming to come from the Sowers Club of Lincoln promised Patrick he’s earned a grant after he pays several fees.

“Asking for money with false hopes, false promises that they’re going to send me $109,000,” said Patrick, who fell victim to the scam.

After paying $3,500, Patrick who asked his last name not be used, realized he’d been scammed.

“The best question to ask yourself is what is it that made you eligible for a grant of this size, how did you receive the solicitation and what did you do to check out the legitimacy of it?” said Jim Hegarty with the Better Business Bureau.

The Sowers Club of Lincoln didn’t send Patrick the grant text, but scammers did after hacking the organization’s email and hijacking its application process.

“The Sowers has done so much good in the community in the last several decades and it’s offensive to me that somebody would take a good reputation like ours and try to scam people out of money,” Campbell said.

And misuse a symbol of an honest day’s work. 6 On Your Side called the number the alleged scammer used to contact the victim, and someone answered.

“Yes the Sowers Club Foundation of Nebraska, I am the Vice President,” a voice said.

Mike McKnight asks: “And you’re giving out grants to people?”

“Yes,” the voice answered.

But you would think he would know the Sower on the outgoing license plates is more than just a symbol, but a real statue on top of the Nebraska State Capitol.

“Do you know where the Sower statue is?” McKnight asked.

”It is a house, it is a house,” the alleged scammer replied.

Patrick says the scammers are still texting him.

“Pestering me to try and get me to give them the money and I don’t get nothing in return,” Patrick said.

So Patrick wants to sow the seeds of doubt on promises of a grant that’s just a growing scam.

6 On Your Side played the scammer’s voice and the club leadership says he sounds nothing like the real vice president of the organization. The Sowers Club of Lincoln is adding a warning to its website. The group only issues grants to charities and students seeking scholarships.