Tagged: FTC

Government and Grant-Related Phone Scams: What To Know

Jun 14, 2019 |

Scammer Calling

Scammers use anything they can in order to trick their targets. The con artists say that they are from government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Federal Trade Commission. Scammers have been targeting people to trick them into applying or receiving fake grants from various government agencies. The caller requests personal information to process the grant. They may ask for your date of birth, phone number, address, social security number, annual income, bank account, or other financial information. Scammers claim that the bank account information is necessary to pay a one-time processing fee. They may also state that the free money will be direct deposited or sent through a wire transfer. The aim of a grant scam is identity theft along with draining your bank account.

Grant Scams

Callers may claim they work for a government program that gives grants to people in need. Parameters are usually vague. Some offer free money to pay bills, for educational purposes, or home improvements. Anyone who calls you out of the blue and claims to work for the government is probably a scammer.  The FTC has written a guide on identifying the calls and what to do to avoid being a victim.

Following the Script

Telemarketers and scammers always have a script to follow when making phone calls. Here are some common lines con artists might use to lure you into their scams:

  • You’ve been selected to receive a grant/scholarship.
  • The grant/scholarship will cost a one-time processing fee.
  • This grant/scholarship has a 100% money back guarantee.
  • This offer is only good for today.
  • I just need your credit card/bank account number to hold the grant/scholarship.
  • Grants are being offered in your area.
  • Small business owners are eligible for government grants.

The Government Grant Process

These are facts about how the government grant process works:

  • Names of agencies and foundations offering grants are free to the public through the internet or local library.
  • The only way to access federal grants is through www.grants.gov.
  • Government grant applications are free.
  • ALL government grant money is used for public projects, not personal use.
  • The government never asks for fees of any kind.

Investigate the Grant

If you receive information online about a government grant, visit the  Index of Government Agencies. All legitimate agencies are listed. Beware of callers using a similar agency name. Scammers may also invent a fake agency name such as the Federal Grants Administration. It sounds official, but the agency doesn’t exist. Legitimate agencies include:

Red Flags

Warning signs for fraud include:

  • The caller requests immediate payment with a credit card or debit card.
  • A request is made to pay using a pre-paid gift card or an iTunes card.
  • The caller uses threatening language.
  • The phone number is not a toll free number, e.g., 800, 888, etc.
  • The scammer is calling from another country.
  • The phone number registers as a spam call or Internet (VoIP) number; the latter can’t be traced.

Forms of Contact

Phone calls are the most common form of contact for government grant scams. However, scams can take place through text message, email, or social media sites.

Text Message

A common text message is short and contains a link. It may look like this: “Congratulations! You are eligible to receive a free grant from the federal government. Click here: www.fakemessage.org”

Email

Emails are more elaborate and detailed. The message claims you have been chosen for a free government grant because you signed up for a website. The email explains the grant and the fact that it’s free money. There is a website link or place to enter personal information. The signature shows the following fake information: name, agency, and a non-existent address in Washington, D.C.

Social Media Sites

Con artists use social media sites to get money from potential victims. Targets receive a private message about a free grant. The message may come through as an ad or from someone on your friends list. If you receive a message from a friend, contact the friend in a separate message asking if it’s legit. If the friend didn’t send the message, all parties should change passwords immediately.

Report Suspicious Activity

If you receive a suspicious call, hang up. Do not press 1 to be removed or give out your personal information. The caller may make threats, but do not respond. You can block calls on your iPhone or Android if the number is in the form of a standard number. Scammers use different numbers to confuse targets, so be aware of strange numbers.

Notify law enforcement via their non-emergency line if the caller makes any type of threats. You should also report the call to ftc.gov/complaint, Better Business Bureau, and [email protected] Include the following:

  • Date and time of the call.
  • Content of any text messages, social media site or email.
  • The name of the company used by the caller.
  • The amount of the free government grant.
  • The dollar amount requested along with the payment method.
  • Give the caller’s phone number. Scammers use untraceable Internet phone numbers or spoof a phone number registered to the government agency. Although the numbers aren’t real, law enforcement might be able to trace them with a tracking system.
  • Note any other details from the call. Be as specific as possible.

Conclusion

Remember, if you receive a call from a scammer, simply hang up. Do not answer any questions or give out personal information. Don’t confirm information the caller claims to have. The best way to avoid scams is to let unknown numbers go to voicemail. Don’t call back and block the phone number of any suspected scam phone call.

 

Rebuilding Notre Dame: What To Know About Charity Phone Scams

May 7, 2019 |

Scams to Rebuild Notre Dame

The world was shocked when fire broke out at the Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the most iconic cathedrals in Paris. People mourned as the centuries-old structure burned and as the spire fell while 400 firefighters fought the fire. Almost immediately, charities – real and fake– began asking for donations to rebuild the French national treasure.

A Cry for Help

Almost 13 million people visit Notre Dame each year. Builders erected the church in Paris 850 years ago. The church houses famous works of art and serves as a museum. It is no surprise that people are willing to dig into their wallets to rebuild the cathedral. Scammers scrambled to create a plan to take advantage of the fire and make some easy money. Thieves set up websites acting as charities and crowdfunding sources to trick the public. Thieves assume people don’t know that the cathedral is owned by the French government. Private citizens, businesses, and the government have already amassed billions of dollars in a fund to reconstruct the church.

Fake Charities

Con artists play on the emotions of people in the aftermath of disaster. For every natural disaster, accident or act of terrorism, scammers are waiting to collect from the public. They ask for money through websites, social media, email and phone calls. The pleas for money are convincing and never ending. People should take steps to check out any organization before giving any money, even if it’s a good cause.

Researching Charity Organizations

Donors can research charities by logging onto The Federal Trade Commission’s list of organizations that can verify if a charity is real. You can also read news on charities. The article Before Giving to a Charity shows how to donate wisely through social media.

Making Donations

People think that donations are tax deductible. They might give more money because of the deduction. However, donations made to foreign organizations aren’t usually tax deductible. Money given to individuals or crowdfunding sites aren’t tax deductible, either. The IRS can help determine which organizations are tax deductible. You should use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to check eligibility.

How to Avoid Scammers

Telemarketers can be pushy when they ask for money. Companies and scammers use robocalls to make it harder to avoid the demands. If you receive a call from someone asking for money to help rebuild Notre Dame, ask a lot of questions. What is the full name and address of the organization? How will the money be spent? Does the organization use the money for admin costs or marketing expenses? If you are unsure of the person calling, hang up and research the charity online. If the calls continue, use an app to block unwanted numbers from your phone.

How to Report Fraud

If you think you’ve been scammed by a fake charity, report it to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant. Give as much information as possible. Second, if you have used a bank account or credit card to make the donation, contact the company right away to block the payment. Lastly, you should also report the event to your state’s Attorney General.