BBB Warns Grant Companies Exploit Stimulus Bill To Rip You Off: Families Are Billed Monthly For Free Guidance On How To Get Federal Government Grants

  
     
March 11, 2009

DAYTON, OHIO, March 11, 2009 - Your Better Business Bureau is warning you to be extremely wary of companies offering free advice on how to get government grants. Dozens of Web sites claim, because of the recently passed stimulus package and other actions taken by President Obama, you can easily get government grants to pay bills or get out of debt. Contrary to such claims, the federal government doesn’t award grants to help people pay general debt and complaints to your BBB show people who sought free advice were ultimately charged as much as $69.95 every month on credit or debit cards.

Immediately following the approval of the $787 billion stimulus package, Web searches for the word "stimulus" returned sponsored link sites like officialstimuluschecks.com and ObamaStimulusGrant.net, in addition to many news stories and Web pages discussing the bill. Ads for grant schemes used enticing testimonials such as, "I got my stimulus check in the mail in less than 30 days..."

"The stimulus package and other efforts on Capitol Hill to jumpstart the economy are dominating the headlines and unscrupulous businesses know they can exploit the news to take advantage of financially desperate families," said John North, BBB president and CEO. "These businesses are simply charging people for free information and chipping away at the bank accounts of families nationwide when they can least afford it."

Ads have also popped up on one of the most popular Web sites on the Internet. In February, ads on Facebook directed the public to Web sites, such as www.davidgetsgreen.com and www.jakecutler.com, set up to look like blogs written by people sharing secrets of how they received $12,000 in government grants to pay off debt.

These "blogs" lead to Web sites, such as www.federalgovernmentgrantsolutions.com. The recently updated Web site previously featured a prominent picture of President Obama and claimed "President Obama want [sic] to issue a STIMULUS PLAN for people in need of government aid and free federal money." The Web site is for a company called Government Grant Solutions and is selling a Grant Program Kit, which provides advice on how to apply for grants, as well as access to a directory of federal and private grants. The Web site includes testimonials from people who claim they were able to obtain money which went toward staving off foreclosure, buying Christmas presents, fixing cars or paying bills.

Your BBB has received hundreds of complaints from people who went to Web sites like www.federalgovernmentgrantsolutions.com that sold information on how to get government grant money. Two Las Vegas based companies, Grant Instructor and Raven Media, have set up dozens of Web sites and received 409 and 295 complaints respectively from people across the U.S. and both have earned an F rating from your BBB. Utah-based Grant University has received more than 300 complaints from across the country in the past year and has an F rating from your BBB.

According to your BBBs Serving Utah and Las Vegas, complainants state they ordered free CDs and were promptly charged as much as $69.95 on their credit or debit cards. Some also stated their credit cards were charged by other companies as well.

When complainants contacted the businesses about being charged for free items, they were told they had actually signed up for free trials—as explained in the terms and conditions on the Web site—and they needed to cancel within seven days of requesting the CDs or they would be charged monthly.

Complainants also stated they never received the free CDs, received the CDs after the free-trials had expired or were unable to log into the Web site to access grant information as promised. These companies fail to provide refunds and some complainants tried to contact the company to cancel service, but ultimately had to cancel their credit cards to stop being billed as much as $69.95 every month.

Before paying money for assistance in earning government grants, your BBB offers the following advice:

  • While it’s true the Federal government gives out billions of dollars in grant money every year, most grants are given to help students pay for college or for specifically defined reasons, such as research or to businesses in particular industries.
  • There’s no reason to pay for software or guides when applying for government grants. Such information is available for free on federal government Web sites including: www.grants.gov, www.Studentaid.ed.gov, www.govbenefits.gov and www.sba.gov.
  • Always check out a business’ BBB Reliability ReportTM before giving out bank account or credit card information. Reliability reports are available free at www.bbb.org or by calling (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

Contact your Better Business Bureau for more information on scams pretending to be part of the stimulus package. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

About Your BBB Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley

Your BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses earning BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. Your BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 126 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring nearly 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Your BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley serves Montgomery, Greene, Clark, Darke, Miami, Preble, Shelby and northern Warren counties. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about your BBB.

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