Understanding grant scams is important to keep you and your information safe. You may come across an ad that claims that you will be able to receive a “free grant” in order to cover costs associated with education, home repairs, unpaid bills, or home business expenses. If it’s not an ad, it may be a phone call claiming to be from a “government” agency or some other private organization with an official sounding name. Either way, the claim is the same. They offer you a grant that is guaranteed to be accepted after you submit an application and that you will not be responsible to repay the money.
However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the nation’s consumer protection agency, explained that offers that say money will be provided for nothing are typically scams regardless of where they are advertised.
Once on the phone with a grant scammer whether you called them from an advertisement or they called you, they typically follow a script. They first offer you congratulations for your eligibility. They will then ask you for sensitive information like your checking account information so they can deposit your grant directly into your account, or so they can cover a one-time processing fee in order to give you your funds. In order to really drive home reliability, the caller may even try to reassure you with a money-back guarantee if not satisfied. However, they are blatantly lying to you, they will just take your money and you will never hear from them again.
In order to avoid falling victim to these scammer, it is important to keep a few good rules of thumb in mind:
Do NOT give out your bank account information with an untrusted source/anyone you don’t know: A common tactic of scammers is to pressure individuals into providing their bank account information. Make sure that you don’t give in and always keep your information confidential. If you have any doubts about a company, do research, and make sure they are verified by the BBB.
Don’t spend any money in order to receive a “free” government grant: That literally eliminates the point of the grant being free. You should have to spend no money to receive a free grant whatsoever. It is also important to note that you can verify a grant provider through a federal website to ensure that you are actually receiving a grant from a trusted provider.
Just because their company sounds official does not mean that it is: The caller may say that he/she is from the “Federal Grants Administration”. This is a blatant lie because that organization doesn’t actually exist. Make sure you actually can verify what the caller is telling you.
Phone numbers may not be accurate: Technology is advancing rapidly which means scammers are getting more innovative ways of being able to trick people out of money. They can create fake reassurance by hiding their real number to make it look like a local or official number. A number is not an indicator of authenticity.
Filter out scam calls: You can reduce the amount of telemarketing calls you receive if you place your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. You can either do this online by visiting donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the number that you want to register on that list. You can also work with your service provider like T-Mobile to add an extra layer of defense and have them filter out some telemarketer calls as well.
Talk to the FTC: Unfortunately, you may have found yourself victim to scam because they prayed on someone in a vulnerable situation. The best course of action is for you to file a complaint with the FTC online or over the phone at 1-877-382-4357 (TTY: 1-866-653-4261). The FTC logs these complaints into Consumer Sentinel, which is a secure online database that is available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies domestically and internationally.
Unfortunately, there will be people trying to get rich quick by stealing from vulnerable people. However, it is important to make sure that you know these tips to keep yourself in the best position possible!