Be wary of all offers for free government grant money through phone calls, mail, conferences, emails or Web sites. Your Better Business Bureau advises avoiding the following scams:
Phone calls. The caller claims to be from the "Government Grant" office and that the consumer is eligible or approved to receive thousands of dollars in government grant funding. Callers sometimes state the money is a refund. The caller eventually asks for personal information, such as bank account numbers, names on the account, and social security numbers. Remember, the government will not call you to offer grant money.
Mail. Scam grant offers in the mail sometimes say you are "pre-approved" or "guaranteed" money. The G.F. Institute, in Overland Park, Kansas, is currently mailing information to consumers in our coverage area, guaranteeing $25,000 from a government grant. G.F. Institute had 39 complaints filed against them within the last year at their local BBB. Consumers complain they purchased the book about grants, but did not receive any grant money. Some mail appears in telegram form, others are simple postcards like this:
E-mails. Be on guard for e-mails from people who just received thousands of dollars in government grant funds. If the e-mail has instructions to pay in order to collect a government grant, it is a scam.
Web sites. Companies start Web sites and offer membership and training programs on how to acquire free grant money. They seek an advance fee to pay for training materials or software to search for grants. The company asks for credit card information or instructs consumers to wire money. In scam situations, consumers will not receive the products or services.
Currently, because of the recently passed stimulus package, dozens of Web sites claim consumers can easily get government grants to pay bills or get out of debt. Contrary to such claims, the federal government does not award grants to help consumers pay general debt. Complaints to BBB show that people who sought free advice were ultimately charged up to $69.95 a month on their credit or debit card. BBB has received hundreds of complaints from consumers who went to Web sites such as www.federalgovernmentgrantsolutions.com. Two Las Vegas based companies, Grant Instructor and Raven Media, have set up dozens of Web sites and received 425 and 298 complaints respectively from consumers across the county, in the last 3 years. The Grant University, a company based in Utah, has received 333 complaints in the last year. All three companies have an "F," BBB's lowest rating.
Watch out for the phrase "Free Grant Money." These solicitations promote the concept that millions of dollars are available to U.S. citizens. Grants do not have to be repaid; thus it is needless to advertise the word "free."
Your BBB offers the following advice concerning government grants:
- If told you won a grant that you didn't apply for, it is a scam. Obtaining a grant or other government funding is a challenging process, which requires documentation and research.
- Grants are not usually given to pay for personal debt or expenses. The Federal government grants are designed to serve a social good, such as: youth education, employment training programs, creating jobs in a new area, scientific research or preserving a historical landmark.
- Grant information is free. There's no reason to pay for software or guides when applying for government grants. Instead, check with a regional or state economic development office to learn more about local grant programs. Find reference books from a public library that describe the criteria foundations use in awarding grants. Information is also available for free on government Web sites including: www.grants.gov, www.Studentaid.ed.gov, www.govbenefits.gov and www.sba.gov.
- Get a BBB Reliability Report. Your BBB advises consumers to check out companies, at www.bbb.org, before making a payment or giving personal information. If you believe you've been the victim of a government grant scam, report it.
About your BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington:
Your Better Business Bureau is a not-for-profit organization funded by Better Business Bureau accredited businesses. The BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. For more information about the services and products provided by your BBB, call 206-431-2222 or 253-830-2924 in Washington, 503-212-3022 in Oregon, 907-562-0704 in Alaska, or visit our Web site at www.bbb.org.