MIDDLEFIELD- A warning to Facebook users after a Middlefield woman was scammed out of $70,000 in grant scam.
According to the BBB, a so-called friend claimed she had received money from a government grant she found out about on Facebook. The "friend" directed the victim to an individual whose Facebook page said "Official Agent" and included a graphic for grants.
The Middlefield resident reached out to "official agent" and was told she could receive a tax free grant from the “2015-2016 Federal Government Grant Money Program.”
She thought she was going to receive a $300,000 government grant. In October, communications switched from Facebook to email when she was contacted by someone who provided the address for Atlanta-based, Suntrust Bank.
Discussions included mention of the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund but ultimately involved the payment of multiple fees to obtain the grant. Over a several month period, the woman wire-transferred additional funds to a bank account in Houston, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, and Bolivar, Missouri.
The woman never received the grant and told Better Business Bureau she continues to get calls from the scammers and requests for more money.
The BBB warns a typical grant scammer uses a well-rehearsed script congratulating you on your good fortune and quickly asks for your checking account information to cover a fee before depositing the money into your account.
Here are a few tips from the BBB to protect yourself and loved ones from this happening to them:
- Don't give your bank account information to anyone you don't know - Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don't share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Don't pay any money for a "free" government grant - If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it isn't really free. A real government agency won't ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant you have already been awarded - or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is http://www.grants.gov.
- Look-alikes aren't the real thing - Just because the caller says he's from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check out the agency to determine its legitimacy.
- Facebook “friends” - If you receive a friend request from someone who is already a friend on Facebook, do not respond to it. You can delete it and warn your friend that their Facebook profile has been hacked.
- Phone numbers can deceive - Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they're calling from Washington DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
- Take control of the calls you receive - If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
File a complaint with the FTC - If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online or call toll-free, 877-382-4375.