Over that past few weeks BBB serving Mississippi has had an increase in calls concerning government school grants. BBB is alerting residents to beware of unsolicited telephone grant scams. “With the cost of education getting higher each year there is more need for help” says John O’Hara CEO of BBB serving Mississippi “People can become victims because they are thinking this is an answer to their prayers.”
Residents say the calls appear to be coming from the (202) area code, which is in the Washington D.C. area and claim the consumer has "won" or was “selected to receive” a grant for tuition, housing, and or even to purchase an automobile.
The callers state they are government workers and offer up to $9,000 in grant money that does not need to be paid back. The catch is they are asking for recipients to get a Green Dot MoneyPak card and load it with money ranging from $400 to $500 to pay for the processing and handling fees. Scammers are also asking for credit card numbers and other banking information.
The most important fact to remember in determining whether a call or email concerning a grant is a scam is to remember that no one can be awarded a grant if they did not apply. The federal government and private foundations do not select grant winners by random or because residents pay taxes on time. The grant process is generally long and very competitive and only those who apply are considered. Grants to individuals also need prior approval by the Internal Revenue Service.
BBB offers the following tips to avoid being taken by a grant scam:
1. Government grants have to be applied for in order to receive. So if you didn't apply for the grant, you shouldn't get one.
2. The government doesn't call you for such matters. You won't receive information from the government through a phone call.
3. If you get one of these calls, just hang up. You may be tempted to call back, but this will only give the scammer another opportunity to steal your information.
4. Don’t give out your personal information to someone you don’t know. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or Social Security number to an unsolicited caller or anyone you don’t know.
5. According to grants.gov, the FTC points out you shouldn't have to pay fees for a “free” government grant.
If you would like to apply for a grant, visit grants.gov. This website provides all of the federal grant opportunities including: different types of grants, rules for applying and how to track your submissions. You can report those who pretend to hand out grants on the government’s behalf to 1-800-447-8477.