Federal Grant for You? It’s Uncle Sham Calling

Uncle Sam, no faceUncle Sam may have oodles of agencies, but the “Federal Government Grants Department” isn’t among them.

Nor does the “Federal Grant Association” exist, despite claims it is awarding free government money to lucky recipients who are randomly telephoned.

So beware of callers using these and other official-sounding names to promise thousands in cash for reasons such as paying your taxes on time, being debt-free, needing debt relief, or just being a good citizen or money-spending consumer.

The government grant scam is back, according to recent warnings from the Better Business Bureau and USA.gov, a public web portal for federal government services information and services.

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It may be an old ruse, but some things never change. Scammers simply invent an agency or office name that might sound legit, use spoofing technology to make your Caller ID display a 202 (for Washington, D.C.) area code, and concoct a reason why you “qualify” or “have been selected” for phony government dough.

How you can get cooked? Provide what they seek: Your personal or financial information for identity theft.

The thieves may claim to need your Social Security numbers for “verification” of your identity. Bank accounts and credit cards are requested on the guise of a direct deposit of the purported funds or to pay taxes or handling fees associated with awarding the nonexistent money.

The real deal? Most authentic government grants are for student aid, or for doing research or working in particular industries – and you’ll find them at www.grants.gov. Applying for them is always free at that website (as well as at StudentAid.gov, Benefits.gov and the website for the U.S. Small Business Administration).

So don’t believe you ever have to pay anything to apply for government grants – including lists of “secret grants” (one popular ruse). And Uncle Sam does not contact you out-of-the-blue about qualifying for grants; you must initiate action first.

Even if the story seems believable, chances are the issuing agency is not. You can always check titles and contact information for federal government agencies using this A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies.

Photo: DonkeyHotey/Flickr.com


Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Scams Expert Sid Kirchheimer writes Scam Alert and covers consumer issues for the AARP Bulletin. The author of “Scam-Proof Your Life”, he is an avid gardener and home-improvement DIYer. Stay current on Sid’s latest scam alerts here.


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