Whom to contact if you think that someone is fraudulently representing Grants.gov.
Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR) Grants Alert:
Over the past few months, the Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR) has received inquiries and complaints from persons targeted by a fraudulent grants scheme.
According to reports, the scam artist claims to represent the COFAR when contacting the individual. Victims are told they have been selected to receive a government grant ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. In order to receive the grant money, the representative explains a "processing fee" ranging between $150 and $700 must be paid and asks individuals for bank account information.
The COFAR is not a grant making organization. The COFAR will never request banking information, social security numbers or other personally identifiable information to facilitate the issuance of a "grant". Grants are not benefits or entitlements. A Federal grant is an award of financial assistance from a Federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States.
Please note the following:
- No government grant-making agency will make phone calls; send email or letters to solicit money or personal banking information from a potential grant recipient.
- There are no processing fees for federal grants.
- Federal grants are not issued for personal use, but are intended for institutions and non-profits to carry out projects with a public purpose.
- Know who you're dealing with on the web. Scam artists will often post a website with a name similar to a legitimate site.
- If you have provided personal banking information to anyone claiming to be associated with a Federal grant agency, call your bank immediately to prevent unauthorized access to your account.
- To obtain Federal grant information and applications, visit the following web sites: www.grants.gov, www.usa.gov, www.govbenefits.gov.
The FTC says following a few basic rules can keep consumers from losing money to these "government grant" scams:
- Don't give out 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 that 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 www.grants.gov.
- Look-alikes aren't the real thing. Just because the caller says they are from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean it's true.. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch ¿ or not.
- 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. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
- 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, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
- This article was previously available as Free Government Grants: Don't Take Them For Grant-ed.
How to recognize and avoid grant scams/fraud:
The Better Business Bureau offers these tips and suggestions:
- YOU WILL NOT BE CONTACTED BY THE GOVERNMENT TO OFFER YOU A GRANT.
The government does not contact people to offer them money. If you do qualify for a government grant, the government does not request payment for it.
- THERE ARE NO FEES ASSOCIATED WITH APPLYING FOR A GOVERNMENT GRANT.
Providing financial information to prove that you qualify for a government grant is typical, but you should never pay money to apply for a grant. People who run scams often claim to provide help and sometimes claim to be "federal government" officials, don't be fooled by these scams that request money from you.
- ALL GOVERNMENT GRANTS INVOLVE AN APPLICATION PROCESS
If you have not submitted an application for a government grant and someone claims you have been awarded one, it's a scam. Grant money is not given over the phone for a fee. In order to qualify for a grant you must apply for the specific opportunity that you are qualified to apply for.
- GOVERNMENT GRANTS ARE AWARDED FOR EXPLICIT OPPORTUNITIES
Government Grants are typically awarded to states, cities, educational institutions, nonprofits and other organizations to fund research and other projects.
- GOVERNMENT GRANT APPLICATIONS AND INFORMATION IS FREE
Be cautious of offers that ask for your personal information (especially financial) when requesting a fee to access grant information. You can always access free information about government grants and other benefits at Grants.gov and Govbenefits.gov.