By Paula Fleming, BBBMarlborough, MA - March 21, 2013 -
Your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) has recently been taking phone calls from consumers who are suspicious of calls they’ve received about qualifying for a government grant. This has become a popular means of defrauding people as many are not familiar with government grants and are not sure if they might qualify for one.
“Grants are not easy to come by and there is always an in-depth process that applicants must go through before they are awarded anything. So, if you didn’t apply for a grant and you receive one of these calls, someone is trying to scam you,” warns Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications & Marketing for the local BBB.
Grant scammers generally follow a script: they congratulate you on your eligibility, then ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account,” or cover a one-time “processing fee.” The caller may even reassure you that you can get a refund if you’re not satisfied. In fact, you’ll never see the grant they promise; they will disappear with your money.
The FTC says following a few basic rules can keep consumers from losing money to these “government grant” scams:
• Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. 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 names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. 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 he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch — or not.
• Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. 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. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
• 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 (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
One recent call to the BBB was from a man who said he was contacted by phone and was told he qualified for a $7,000 government grant. But the caller told him he had to wire a fee via Western Union before he could receive the grant money. In other instances, scammers ask their targets for account numbers over the phone in order to pay the required “processing fees.”
These scammers are not affiliated with the government or any reputable organizations. They are criminals who are seeking financial information in an effort to get money from those they target – not award money to them.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org