The holiday season should be one filled with joy and happiness, but unfortunately this might not always be the case. Lower income families might have trouble purchasing new gifts for their children, but still want to make sure they receive gifts from Santa under the tree. These families look to community organizations that help in providing donated toys and other gifts during the Christmas season. It is heartbreaking when more than a dozen lower income families were scammed out of gifts in the Phoenix area, just days before Christmas.
Families scammed on Facebook
Christina Avina has been running a Facebook group for the past three years, known as “Tender Hearts Christmas Angels”. This groups helping hand during the holiday season is in the name of the group, where the goal is to provide low income families with gifts, in acting as Christmas Angels. Avina explained the process of how the Facebook group operates. She posts photos of children who are in need of a Christmas present, and people get to pick a child who they want to give their gift to. Avina said they do it this way so that those donating can see who their gift is going to, which can provide them with joy knowing they are giving to a deserving child. There were never any problems with the group’s process in previous years, and this is the first year a scam is leaving dozens of children without gifts for Christmas.
A scam in the making
A woman who was posting under the name Audreyanna Rodriguez agreed to sponsor more than 50 families. In the group, sponsors will swap information, like photos and addresses, which is exactly what this woman did. Deliveries were to be made on Saturday, December 19th, but the woman never showed up to any of the locations she was supposed to. Audreyanna Rodriguez even posted a photo in the group, which was an alleged picture of her leaving the house with all of the gifts in hand. Several parents are upset because this means their children won’t have any gifts to open on Christmas. One mom, Andrea Bella, said that her children got their hopes up when she showed them the picture posted from Audreyanna’s account. It hurts her because it hurts her kids.
Families left frustrated
Several of the families went on the Facebook group to explain their frustrations in hopes of finding some kind of solution. Avina actually did a Google search which pulled up a picture from a casino toy drive, and she knew it was a fake account. The user Audreyanna Rodriguez has stopped responding to families who she said she would sponsor and has blocked them on the social media site. The “real” Audreyanna Rodriguez linked with that Facebook account responded to the Facebook group stating that she thought her account was hacked.
It is so sad that this group was scammed and dozens of families are left scrambling to come up with a plan for Christmas. Another group “Help For The Holidays In Phoenix” was also scammed. “Tender Heart Christmas Angels” organizers were able to set up a drop off for toys this week. Hopefully enough items were collected so that all the families involved in the gift giving scam can still give their child a gift on Christmas.