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BBB reports increase in 'free' grant offers; for many, it's really a phishing expedition

by jmaloni


Thu, Jul 9th 2015 12:40 pm

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is reporting sharp increase in daily calls regarding "government grants." In this scam, victims are offered access to alleged grant money, but what the scammers really want is the victim's bank account and other personal information.

A Jamestown senior citizen called BBB to report a grant scam. He received a letter from a company calling itself Resource Program and telling him he would be eligible for grant money. After sending $2,000 for "fees," he never heard back.

How the scam works: You get a phone call, read an email or a post on a social media site promising free government grant money. They say your application is guaranteed to be accepted and you will never have to repay the money. You can use the "grant" to pay bills, make repairs, pay education costs, etc.

Does that sound too good to be true? That's because it is. If you take the bait, scammers will then congratulate you on your eligibility. Then, they ask you for your checking account information. They claim they need to deposit the money directly into your checking account, or to cover a one-time "processing fee." Whatever the reason, two things will happen: You will never see that money, and scammers have access to your banking information.

BBB offers tips on how to spot a grant scam:

The government typically doesn't call, text or email. Government agencies normally communicate through U.S. mail, so be very cautious of any unsolicited calls, text messages or emails.

Don't pay any money for a government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it isn't really free. A real government agency won't ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant you have already been awarded.

Don't rely on caller ID. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they're calling from Washington, D.C., they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

Be wary of look-a-like government agencies. Just because the caller says he or she is from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean he or she is ... or that such an agency exists. When in doubt, do a quick online search.

Pick up the phone. If you receive a suspicious call or email, call the local government agency to check its legitimacy. Look for the phone number on previous correspondence or the official government website. Don't call a number in the email.

Read more about government grant scams on the Federal Trade Commission website. To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Tracker, go to bbb.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB business reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses, and charity reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.

BBB serving Upstate New York was founded in 1923 and serves 48 counties.

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