Government Grant Scams
“I’m calling today from the U.S. Government Grant Department from Washington, D.C. to inform you that you have been selected by the government to receive a grant of $7,000 that you never have to pay back and never have to pay any tax on this money …”
What do you do – celebrate your good fortune and start dreaming about how you’ll spend the money OR recognize this for the COMPLETE SCAM that it is?
Government grant scams have been around for years and always involve the same basic premise: somehow (since you never even applied for a grant!) and for some reason (sometimes the caller claims it’s because you paid your taxes on time!) the government has selected you to receive “free” grant moneys – to be used for no particular purpose – and you never have to pay it back.
But, here’s the problem: the government does not simply pass out grant money at random to people who haven’t gone through the process of actually applying for a grant. And, the government certainly NEVER calls people out of the blue to give away free money!
So, here are a few basic tips for recognizing government grant scams:
- The call, email, text message, or letter is completely unsolicited and is not in response to a formal grant application you actually submitted
- The solicitation refers to some vague and non-existent government organization (“Federal Grants Administration,” “Federal Bureau of Grant Awards,” US Government Grant Department,” etc.)
- Often, with telephone solicitations, the caller speaks with a heavy foreign accent, uses poor grammar, or appears to be in a large room with a lot of other telephone calls obvious in the background
- The “grant” you have been awarded comes with no strings attached and can be used for any purpose – something that real grants never allow
- The solicitation comes in the form of a friend request that appears to be from someone you know and offers to introduce you to an elected official such as your Attorney General who can get you the grant – these are imposter accounts set up to make it look like your friend or public official is endorsing this solicitation
- REMEMBER, no government agency (state or federal) will ever call you or message you on social media about a grant award
To avoid being ripped off:
- NEVER give out personal identifying information (address, date of birth, SSN) or financial information (bank or credit card numbers)
- NEVER agree to pay any fee in order to claim these phony grants
- NEVER agree to send a wire transfer, transfer money through a social media site like Facebook, or use pre-paid money or gift cards (iTunes cards have become particularly popular with these crooks) to cover expenses claimed to be associated with a phony grant
- NEVER pay for a list of grants that you might be eligible for
If you are looking for a federal grant visit www.grants.gov, a real government website maintained by The United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides “a centralized location for grant seekers to find and apply for federal funding opportunities.” You can search for grant opportunities, learn how to put together a formal grant application, and even submit applications for federal funding.
If you believe you have been a victim of a government grant scam or if you wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here.
Visit the Digital Fraud Center to learn more about social media scams.
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