Coffee Sheriff warns of "grant" scam

DOUGLAS, GA (WALB) - Coffee County Sheriff Doyle T. Wooten says that if someone calls and says you've won a government grant, beware.

If you get a call like this, don't let your excitement overpower your good judgment. Sheriff Wooten says this is a well- known telemarketing scam designed to trick you into paying a fee in order to collect a much larger sum in the form of a government grant.

How the Grant Scam Works:

The caller will offer to help you get a government grant of somewhere around $5,000.00.

You will be asked to pay a fee for their service. The fee could be any amount but it's usually small enough in relation to the grant so as not to raise suspicion. They will ask for your bank account number and perhaps your mother's maiden name and any other information that they can use to milk you out of your money.

Never give out your bank account number to someone that calls you out of the blue. Once someone has account information they can withdraw all of your funds. Giving someone your social security and bank account numbers could also lead to identity theft.

The Federal Grant scammers may even be specific about what government agency they represent. HUD, The Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a well-known agency. People who have actually applied for a government grant from an agency such as HUD may confuse the bogus offer with a real government grant they are seeking.

The government will never charge you a fee to process a grant, or any other application. Your tax dollars pay for government agencies to exist. An agency would also never require you to provide vital financial information over the phone. Someone claiming they are going to give you money but first they need to charge you a one-time processing fee should raise a lot of red flags. 

Some grant scams involve criminals placing ads in newspapers and on websites offering loans for small business. If you respond to one of these bogus government loan offers you will quickly be approved. What comes next should rise more than a few eyebrows. In order to collect your loan you are required to wire funds via Western Union to pay for insurance on the loan. 

Thousands of dollars may be asked for but the loan could be for much more making it seem reasonable. The trick here is that it's never reasonable for someone to ask for money to insure a loan. If you wire money to someone for loan insurance you can kiss it goodbye. You won't see a dollar of your loan insurance money again.

Tips for avoiding government grant scams

• A real government won't require you to pay an advance fee before you can collect the grant money because this practice is illegal.

• Grants don't arrive unannounced on your doorstep. You won't get a grant without applying for it first.

• Don't give out personal information to people making unsolicited calls to you no matter how reasonable they sound. Ask them for their phone number, who they represent and the address of their organization so you can contact them yourself. Before you do, check them out on the internet or with the Better Business Bureau.

• Demand information in writing and have them mail, fax or email it to you.

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