Don’t fall for fake government grants

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Column by Cathy Williamson

By Cathy Williamson

Local residents have reported receiving calls from scammers claiming they have qualified to receive a “free” government grant for thousands of dollars, just for being a “good citizen” and staying out of jail or paying their taxes on time.

Of course the grants are too-good-to-be-true. The caller asks the victim to wire hundreds of dollars for processing fees. BBB warns consumers to never wire fees to someone you do not know.

Here’s how the scam works:

The victim receives a call about the grant and is given a confirmation number and instructed to call a supervisor about receiving the grant. The “supervisor” instructs the victim to wire money.

The callers go by many names including Federal Grants Department, U.S. Health and Human Services and U.S. Federal Grant and Treasury Department. Scammers often impersonate legitimate or legitimate-sounding agencies.

The scammers can become aggressive if the victim asks too many questions and often belittles the person by asking questions like: “What’s wrong with you? How can you turn down money the government is giving you?”

This aggression is used to pressure the victim into action or get the victim to share account information.

It’s important to remember government grants aren’t just given away. There usually is an extensive application process requiring essays and proof of financial need or benefit to the community. They are not for personal use.

If you think you are receiving a fake call, hang up.

How to spot a government grant scam:

  • The caller asks for your personal account information.
  • The caller asks you to wire money via Western Union, Green Dot MoneyPak or similar manner.
  • The caller speaks with bad grammar or broken English.
  • Caller uses a name with Federal, U.S or Na­tional in the title. Throwing out names that seem like they’re affiliated with the federal government is an easy way to get victims to believe they are legitimate, don’t be fooled.

For information on legitimate grants, go online to www.grants.gov. For more consumer tips, visit BBB’s website at bbb.org or call 1-800-388-2222.

Cathy Williamson is manager of the Lincoln Trail Area branch of the Better Business Bureau.