The Better Business Bureau has recently been informed about consumers receiving suspicious calls from scammers saying they qualify for a government grant.
BBB officials say this is a popular scam because most people are not familiar with government grant programs and are not sure if they might qualify for one.
"Grants are not easy to come by and there is always an in-depth process that applicants must go through before they are awarded anything. So, if you didn't apply for a grant and you receive one of these calls, someone is trying to scam you," warns BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty.
The BBB says grant scammers generally follow a script. They congratulate you on your eligibility, then ask for your checking account information so they can "deposit your grant directly into your account," or cover a one-time "processing fee." The caller may even reassure you that you can get a refund if you're not satisfied.
To avoid being a victim of a grant scam, the BBB advises:
- Don't give out your bank account information to anyone you don't know. Don't share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Don't pay any money for a "free" government grant. A real government agency won't ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded -- or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The only official access point to view all federal grant-making agencies is grants.gov.
- Look-alikes aren't the real thing. Just because the caller says he's from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch -- or not.
- Phone numbers can deceive. 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, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
- File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
For more information, visit bbb.org.