Scammers Masquerade as Government Agency

  
     
March 18, 2011

March 1, 2011-Jacksonville, Fl. BBB serving Northeast Florida and the Southeast Atlantic is warning consumers on what appears to be a fake government grant scam. Citizens Aid Government Agency lists their location as Gainesville, Fl. Their website can be found at www.citizensaid.org. They claim to be affiliated with the United State Department of Treasury and further claim to be able to provide government grants to pay off credit card and other debts that a consumer might have.

According to complaints received by BBB, the consumer is asked to complete an application that provides Citizens Aid a vast amount of personal information including account numbers, social security numbers, mother’s maiden name, etc. The consumer faxes or emails the application, which is then supposedly submitted to the Department of the Treasury for approval. An answer from the government is promised in 24 to 48 hours. The consumer is required to pay a fee of 13.8% of the total amount of the grant they are awarded. We currently have 4 complaints that have been filed in the last two weeks. The complaints allege that after completing the application, their grants were approved and checks or drafts were issued to the creditors listed on the application.  After verifying that the checks or drafts had been received by the creditor, the consumers are required to pay the fee within two days. Shortly after paying the fee, the victims learn that the checks/drafts issued to the creditors are either reversed or returned due to insufficient funds. At that point the victim has paid the fee and received nothing for their money. BBB has sent the complaints to the address given the consumers but expect them to be returned as the post office advises that the address in non-deliverable.

Other information that leads us to believe this organization is fraudulent includes the following:
• Website claims organization has partnered with the Department of Treasury for 22 years but the website was just registered in December of 2010.
• Address given to the website registrar is non-deliverable as are all addresses that the organization has listed in various documents.
• Telephone number given to the website registrar has an area code that does not match the office address given and appears to be a made up number (954-954-9549).
• The fax number given to the website registrar has an area code placing the location in the Seattle, WA area, a long way from Gainesville, Fl.
• A turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours for government approval of a grant is quite a bit shorter than one would normally expect when dealing with a Federal agency.
• The content of the website is replete with errors and mismatched information regarding the Department of the Treasury and the U. S. Banking system.
• There is no mention of this organization or the programs it claims to offer on the website of the Treasury Department.
• There is no record of this company with the Florida Secretary of State either as an incorporated entity or a fictitious name filing.

March 17, 2011 update: Consumers tell us they were instructed to wire/money gram the “fee” to Jamaica.  BBB reminds the public that once money is sent via Western Union or Money Gram, it cannot be recovered once it is picked up by the recipient.

For further information contact Tom Stephens at 904-721-2288 ext 313.