Think you just got a government grant you didn’t apply for? Prepare to get scammed!

scam alert 150x150Your BBB has received numerous complaints from consumers who had calls saying they had received a government grant that they never applied for. If you receive a call like that, don’t fall for it. A real grant is hard to get and you have to apply for it. The scammers will either try to get an advance payment to cover some kind of “fee” or get your bank details so they can rip you off.

This week, a consumer from south Texas lost $250 to a grant scammer, but it could have been a lot worse. “They called and said they had good news. Because I paid my bills on time and no bankruptcies, I now qualified for a $8,300 grant,” he said. “They said if I paid a $250 processing fee, I would get it. They said they were calling from Washington, from the federal government.”

At the caller’s instructions, he purchased a Green Dot card from CVS and stayed on the phone with them. After he paid $250 with the card, they asked for $950 to cover “taxes.” At that point, he did a web search and realized it was a scam. He didn’t pay the $950 and contacted BBB.

I called the number the consumer received the call from and what do you know? Another, different advance fee scam operated by “Caribbean Cruise Line.” First an automated message saying I had won a free Carribean cruise. Then a live person named “Rodine” who informed me of all the great fun I would have on the cruise–as soon as I paid an upfront fee of $118 for myself and my wife to cover “port taxes.”

When I said I was with Better Business Bureau and asked for an address for the company, “Rodine” got rather flustered. She wouldn’t give out the address and hung up on me. When I tried to call back, my number was blocked.

How to spot a government grant scam:

  • Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
  • Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it isn’t really free. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded – or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is grants.gov.
  • Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says they’re from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that they are. There is no such government agency. And although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.