Everyone can use a little extra cash now and then… roof repair, leaky refrigerator or maybe a kid who picks the most expensive college option possible. They all add up, and if you are lucky, all at the same time.
Never fear though – if you are particularly unlucky you will find yourself in the sights of someone who wants to offer you a special government grant. You deserve it, after all. You work hard and pay taxes… you SHOULD get that grant from some official-sounding grant-giving agency, right?
Our friends at the Federal Trade Commission have a special warning for you, though: free money is almost never free. The scam artist may contact you directly, or you may see these grant offers online or in publications. Once you are talking, the fraudster will work to convince you that you do, indeed, qualify. He will ask for a checking account number to deposit your new-found funds or perhaps to collect some small processing fee. He may even suggest that there is a money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied.
Here’s how to protect yourself:
- Never give your bank account information to strangers unless you are convinced the agency is legitimate.
- Don’t pay a fee for what someone tells you is a free grant.
- Check out the agency in question by doing research before giving out any info or money. grants.gov is a great place to start – it is a centralized portal to find and apply for federal grants.
If you have been victimized by this online scam or any other cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.