Government Grant Scams to Avoid
March 17, 2015 governmentgrants.info Staff
Whether through a television or internet ad, or an unsolicited phone call from an official-sounding agency, most people have heard about so-called “free grants” that can be used for paying bills, buying a house, college tuition, or any number of other costs. Whatever the pitch, these ads and phone calls almost always state that all you have to do to qualify for free money is fill out an application, one that is guaranteed to be approved.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with protecting the nation’s consumers from dishonest business practices, these free grant offers are almost always scams.
Sometimes scammers take out ads in newspapers or on internet sell-and-trade sites, where they post toll-free phone numbers offering more information. Other scam operations employ telemarketing tactics, except that instead of calling from a legitimate company, these con artists use fake titles and lie about their products. Many claim to be calling from government agencies, such as the “Federal Grants Agency,” or another official-sounding office. They then ask a few preliminary questions and tell you that you’ve qualified, setting the stage for their swindle. According to the FTC, these calls are always from con artists, as no federal agency will ever contact a consumer in this way.
After informing the consumer that they have “qualified” for a grant, the scammer will ask for bank account information, supposedly to enable the government to deposit funds in the consumer’s account. In other cases, they ask for credit card information, or ask the consumer to wire money to cover “processing fees.” While their methods vary, one thing is certain: those who wire money or share bank and credit card information will never see that money again, no matter what the “representative” promises.
To avoid becoming a victim of a grant scam, the FTC advises consumers to take the following precautions:
1. Never share your banking or credit card information
Scam operators are adept at convincing people to share their information. The bottom line is that you should never give your information to anyone, unless you know the company and what the information will be used for.
2. Never pay for a “free grant”
No legitimate company, and certainly no government agency, is going to charge you for something that’s supposed to be free. Government agencies will never ask you to pay a fee to process a grant, nor will they charge you for a list of legitimate grant-awarding agencies. Those resources are free and available to the public at any library, or online at www.grants.gov.
3. Always check the name of the agency
Any scammer can come up with an official-sounding name, like the “Federal Grants Agency,” an agency that doesn’t exist. Do a quick internet search or check the blue pages in your phone book.
4. Know that phone numbers can be disguised
Today’s technology allows con artists to manipulate the way their phone numbers appear on caller I.D. Although the call may appear on caller I.D. to be coming from the nation’s capital, it could really be coming from any location on the planet.
5. Streamline the calls you accept
To decrease the number of unsolicited telemarketer calls you receive, register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222. In addition, there are a number of smart phone apps that allow you to block unwanted calls.
6. Contact the Federal Trade Commission
If you believe you have already been the victim of a scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC. Whether the scam originated online, or over the phone, the agency will register your fraud complaint in an international law enforcement database known as Consumer Sentinal. Call 1-877-382-4357 or go to ftccomplaintassistant.gov for help.
The following page includes guidelines for Grant Approval and a link to the .gov website where you can safely apply for a grant for FREE.
Grant Guidelines and Application