scam

A retired Madison County man reported last week that he has received at least a half dozen suspicious phone calls over a two-week period.

The man said the first call came to his home two weeks ago. The caller ID showed a Washington, D.C. (202) area code.

He said he usually does not answer these types of calls and thought this might be a politician.

He answered the call and the woman on the other end said she was from the “U.S. Federal Bureau of Grants.”

“She said, ‘your number has been selected at random and we have a $10,000 grant for you,’” the man explained.

The man said he was skeptical.

“I should have gotten more information, but I was angry,” he said. “I told her (off), and hung up.”

The next day a call came over the caller ID with just “000.”

The local man answered and it was the same lady. This time she asked for him by name, and again said she was from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Grants.

After he questioned the caller, the caller hung up.

Three to four days later a call with just “incoming call” came over the ID. The man let the call go to voicemail. The next day another “incoming call” was allowed to go to voicemail, and the caller said he was from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Grants.

On Tuesday, another call showed up on the ID. According to the local man, the number was 202-792-3235. This time a male caller asked for the local man by name again.

“He gave me a name I could not understand,” the local man said. “I said ‘I don’t owe anybody.’ And, he (the unknown caller) hung up.”

The local man said he has considered calling the FBI in St. Louis to report the calls. He called the Daily Journal Tuesday to report the attempted scam.

“They will grab somebody’s money,” the local man said. “It would be a shame if they get somebody from this area.”

A review on the Better Business Bureau website shows there have been at least 47 complaints about this business.

Consumers report being approached with information that they have been awarded a grant. The address location used by the promoter is that of a genuine federal agency, but this promotion and its contacts are misrepresenting themselves as having an affiliation with the US government and are not located at the Independence Avenue address in Washington, DC. Those contacted are usually asked to send a payment via wire. Recent consumers report being asked to provide bank routing numbers on their checking accounts. If they provide that initial payment, they are approached for another payment. All such charges are presented as insurance or tax payment that must be made in advance in order to obtain the "grant" in question.

“Consumers are advised never to send wired payments to unknown parties. Such payments are essentially untraceable. Providing access to a checking account through access authorization to unknown and unverified individuals opens the doors to significant losses. Those approached with the offer report that they have not even applied for any grant program. A genuine grant would provide notice that can be verified and would not be asking recipients for payments.”

The Department of Health and Human Services website states, “No legitimate federal government employee would ever call you and tell you that you qualify or have been approved for a grant for which you never applied. Protect yourself from scammers that tell you that you need to pay a small processing fee to qualify to receive a grant for education costs, home repairs, home business expenses, or ‘money for nothing’ grant offers."

Whether you see them in your local paper or a national magazine, or receive direct phone calls — con artists generally follow a familiar script to gain access to your bank accounts or to get you to make unnecessary one-time payments to them.

Look and listen for these tell-tale lines:

  • "This grant/scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
  • "You can't get this information anywhere else."
  • "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this grant/scholarship."
  • "We'll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee."
  • "The grant/scholarship will just cost you a one-time fee."
  • "You've been selected" or "you are eligible" to receive a grant/scholarship.

People who run scams often claim to provide help and sometimes claim to be "federal government" officials — don’t be fooled by these scams that request money from you. It is illegal to ask you to pay to apply for or to increase your odds of being awarded a federal grant.

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. You can't rely on caller ID because scammers know how to rig it to show you the wrong information (aka "spoofing"). Scammers might have personal information about you before they call, so don't take that as a sign they're the real thing. If you're not sure whether you're dealing with the government, look up the official number of the agency.

Quick Facts about the Government Grant Process

  • Government grant applications and information about them are free.
  • The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet.
  • The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is www.grants.gov.
  • There are no fees associated with applying for a government grant.
  • All government grants involve an application process to carry out projects with a public purpose and are not intended for personal use.
  • You will not be contacted by the government to make you pay for a grant.

If you think that someone has fraudulently represented Grants.gov or HHS, contact the HHS Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477 and email support@grants.gov.

Things You Should Do to Protect Yourself from Scammers

The FTC says following a few basic rules can keep you from losing money to these "government grant" scams:

  • Don't give out your bank account information to anyone you don't know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. 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. If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it isn't a government grant and it isn't really free. 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. Specifically, Federal government agencies and employees never ask people to wire money or use a prepaid debit card to pay for anything. Be careful. Prepaid cards and money transfers are like sending cash—once it's gone, you can't get it back.
  • Check the USA.gov Index of Government Agencies—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 USA.gov site or the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch—or not.
  • Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
  • 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, 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 United States and abroad."
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