Editor’s Note: We have victims willing to speak to the media.
A steady stream of scams have been reported to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) throughout the summer and there seems to be no end to that trend. Most recently consumers have contacted the BBB about calls regarding U.S. Government Grants. The scammers claim to be representatives of the U.S. Federal Government and place calls to individuals informing them that they are the recipient of guaranteed grants.
Carol Finstein of Waukegan received a call with an offer for a federal grant. “They said that there was a federal grant available to anyone that was either a senior citizen or disabled. They said that I was entitled to $7,000 but there were legal and other fees to pay in advance.” Ms. Finstein was told that she should make the payment using a GreenDot card. “It started with $500 and they kept asking for more and finally added up to $2,400. I borrowed the last $300 they asked for from a friend.”
The story the scammer told Hosea Blakely of Rockford was slightly different. “I received a call from a Mr. Watson who told me that once a year guaranteed U.S. Government Grants are issued and I would receive $8,600. All I had to do was place a call and within 30 minutes the money would be deposited into his account.” Mr. Blakely was not asked for any advanced payments, only his account information.
“These kinds of scams often have two goals,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “First, they want to milk trusting consumers out of their money and secondly they target them for identity theft.”
“Senior Citizens are particularly vulnerable in large part because they are at home during the day to receive the calls and they often get taken by surprise by these fast talking con artists,” Bernas added.
That was not the case with Mae Nichols, also of Rockford. “I received a phone call saying they were from the United States government and they wanted to give me $8,000 for being a good citizen. All they needed was my credit card number or banking and they would put it in there. I told them I can wait, just mail it to me. When they said no, I hung up on them.”
Additionally, Bernas notes, “While it’s true the U.S. Federal Government does give out billions of dollars each year in grant money, most grants are given to help students pay for college or for specifically defined reasons such as for research or to businesses in particular industries.”
There are a few basic rules that can keep you from losing money to these government grant scams:
# # #
The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices. The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service. Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.