Phone Call Grants Scams: Free Government Grants
Let's see... you're sitting at home, the phone rings, and there's a government agency offering you a free grant or scholarship from some organization you've never heard of, offering a boatload of money! The people making these offers claim to represent the United States government or other groups that assist the federal government with grant distributions. They already have some personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, and ask for other information like your Social Security and bank account numbers, in order to "deposit the grant directly into your account". They might ask you to pay a "processing fee" for the grant. But instead of giving you a grant, they're criminal scammers and their real plan is to steal your identity, your money, or both.
Tips for Identifying and Avoiding Government Grant Scams
- The U.S. government does not telephone people or send unsolicited letters or emails to offer grants. If someone contacts you unexpectedly and offers you a grant, it's a scam. Don't provide your financial account numbers, Social Security numbers, or other personal information in response to such an offer.
- Government grants never require fees of any kind. You might have to provide financial information to prove that you qualify for a government grant, but you won't have to pay to get one. And you certainly would never provide tat information via email or in response to a phone call.
- Government grants require an application process. They are never given over the phone and are never guaranteed. Applications for government grants are reviewed to determine if they meet certain criteria and are awarded based on merit. If you didn't apply for a government grant and someone says you're receiving one, it is a scam.
- Government grants are made for specific purposes, not just because someone is a good taxpayer. Most government grants are awarded to states, cities, schools, and nonprofit organizations to help provide services or fund research projects. Grants to individuals are typically for very specific, well-publicized purposes, like college expenses or disaster relief.
- Don't be fooled by official or impressive-sounding names. Con men claiming to provide or help get government grants often invent impressive-sounding names and titles for themselves and the companies they represent. Just because the say they are "Dr." or "Chief Section Head" does not mean they are! They operate under many different names and phone numbers, take your money, then leave town to start all over again.
- Beware of services offering government grant information for a fee or requesting your personal information to provide it. Information about government grants and other benefits is free (though there may be a fee for some print publications) and you never need to provide personal information to get it.
Resources for Information about Government Grants and Benefits
These are all government websites, so they can be trusted!
Below are links to sample actual phone calls of this type of scam, along with how to recognize the scam and report them. These are of a type called "The Advance Fee Fraud (AFF)" phone calls is also known as "419" after the section of the Nigerian penal law that deals with this type of fraud. It takes many forms, we have categorized the scams below as "Orphans and Widows of wealthy diplomats, generals, presidents, etc."
Let's look at some actual phone calls people received and see how we can spot that they are scams. In general, notice the awesome amount of misspellings, poor grammar and run-on sentences. May they should take one of their own scholarships and get a better education!
- (613) 474 9723, US Government Grants Department
And please let us know about any suspicious calls or emails you receive. We look for patterns so that we can alert the authorities and victims to new scams, before it is too late!