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May 10, 2021

Be on the lookout for phony government grant scams

Con artists promise thousands in exchange for hundreds in fees 

The promise of tens of thousands of dollars in free grant money might be hard to turn down, but be aware. These offers are just a ploy by scammers to wrench away your hard-earned money.  

While these con artists use a variety of tricks to obtain your trust and money, we’ve recently seen an increase in the use of Facebook to make contact with victims.  

In one recent complaint, a consumer lost hundreds of dollars after her friend sent her a message on the social media site telling her of a man who could provide a government grant if she just filled out a bit of personal information.  

After the woman filled out the information, she was informed that she would receive tens of thousands of dollars in grant funds, and she was instructed to pay a “delivery fee” of $400 in bitcoin. After paying that fee and another, she found out that her friend’s Facebook had been hacked and she was now out several hundred dollars.  

This is just one example of the phony government grant scam. In other instances, con artists will advertise free grants in classified advertisings, call you with news that you won a grant or send official-looking mailings.  

Remember that believing the offer of “money for nothing” will likely land you with less funds in your pockets in the end.  

The Federal Trade Commission and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office provide these tips for avoiding the “government grant” scams:  

  • Don’t pay anything for a “free” government grant. If you have to spend money to claim a “free” government grant, it really isn’t free. 

  • Lookalikes aren’t the real thing. If a caller says she’s with an official-sounding agency, take a moment and research the agency online or in the phone book.  

  • Phone numbers can deceive. Internet technology lets con artists disguise the area code that appears on your caller ID. A call that seems to be from area code 202 in Washington, D.C., could be from anywhere. 

  • Don’t give out personal information. Be wary anytime someone asks for your password or login information. Remember, a legitimate business or agency would never ask you to email, text, or Facebook message them your bank account, credit card, or Social Security numbers. 

  • Report the account to Facebook or other online sites. 

  • Be wary of any offer that asks you to pay in gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. 

File a complaint: 

If you have been become the victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at consumer@ag.iowa.gov or 515-281-5926 (in Des Moines area) or 888-777-4590 (outside the metro area). 

You can also report these fraudulent schemes to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint

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