It is a harsh truth of today’s world – scams surround us. Unfortunately, the world of grants is not devoid of individuals who try to take advantage of others. In fact, we recently fielded some questions from individuals who wanted to know whether or not a particular grant they had “been awarded” was legitimate. One of our Grant Helpers even got a scam call! As he recounts, "The caller announced that I had been selected to receive a $9,000 grant from the government as a result of paying my taxes on time. I had to provide a 'security deposit' of $250 to receive the grant." The caller even said he was with Health and Human Services and gave their address in Washington, D.C.
Needless to say, our Grant Helper did not provide any bank account information, nor did he pay any $250. Instead, he reported the incident to the Fraud Hotline at the Office of Inspector General, Health and Human Services (contact information below). In this blog article, we offer you some main clues to indicate potential scams. We also offer some suggestions on what to do if someone tries to scam you.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a website of various scams, including grant scams. You can learn more about grant scams and what is happening in regards to government grant scams by visiting the FTC’s webpage.
What to Watch Out For
- If you did not apply for a grant, then anyone who claims you received one is almost certainly trying to scam you. Grant-making organizations rarely if ever award grants to individuals, and they certainly do not have a list of citizens that they choose from to randomly award thousands of dollars.
- Government grants to individuals are pretty much non-existent. If you get a phone call saying that you have been awarded a federal grant, you are almost certainly being scammed.
- A required fee to claim an award is not a standard practice. Be suspicious of any award that requires up-front fees to apply or to claim.
- “Free Grants” to pay for education, home repairs, debt, etc. are another popular scam. Any that guarantee you will be accepted are especially suspicious.
- The “U.S. Office of Federal Grants” does not exist, yet anyone can call and claim to be from this office.
- Some scammers disguise their phone numbers or area codes to look like the call is actually coming from Washington, D.C., but in fact, these calls can be coming from anywhere in the world.
What to Do
If you receive a phone call that you believe is a scam:
- Do not be afraid to probe the caller for information. Ask:
- What agency are you from?
- What is the address?
- Is there a phone number I where can call you back?
- Where should I send my information?
- Report the information to the Inspector General Fraud Hotline at (800)447-8477(800) 447-8477. Some scams are so popular, that the Inspector General has given them their own menu item in its automated phone system.
- Above all else, be sure not to provide the caller with any personal information. This includes your social security number, bank account information, address, other phone numbers, place of employment, etc.
This could all be summed up with the old saying “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” Be wary in any circumstance of callers or services offering you something in exchange for personal information or bank account information. If you ever have a question about whether or not an offer you have received is a scam, or if you need assistance in anything grant related, please do not hesitate to contact us. One of our experts will be happy to help you.
Image credit: Rennett Stowe