BBB warns: Don’t get taken by a government grant scam

ID-100297158Your BBB gets a lot of calls from people who had suspicious calls from scammers saying they qualify for a government grant. In reality, you have to apply for government grants. They will never come to you from out of the blue.

If you’re not familiar with how government grants work, the prospect of “free money” from Uncle Sam could seem pretty tempting. Unfortunately, the only one who stands to make money is the scammer.

The calls appear to originate from Washington D.C. Scammers will claim you were randomly picked to receive a seven or nine thousand dollar grant from the government.

Grant scammers usually follow a script. They congratulate you on your eligibility, then ask for your checking account information to either deposit the grant into your account, or to pay a one-time processing fee. The caller may even reassure you that you can get a refund if you’re not satisfied.

To avoid being a victim of a grant scam, BBB has the following tips:

  • Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company or person and ask why the information is necessary.
  • Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded.
  • Just because the caller says they are with a branch of the government doesn’t mean they are. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory, or do a Google search to check if the government entity exists.
  • Phone numbers can deceive. Scammers can use internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, D.C., they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you think you have been a victim of a government grant scam, complaints can be filed with the FTC online or over the phone, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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