Shopping-Bargains® is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi. Apart from the benefits our customers receive knowing we are a verified business entity, we also benefit from BBB warnings regarding some of the latest scams.
Here is a new alert we received this week — it has to do with phony government grant scams posted on Facebook. With the BBB Mississippi’s permission, we share this warning with our shoppers:
Mississippi (January 5, 2016) Scammers are still in holiday season mode, stepping up their efforts to trick Facebook users with phony government grant offers. Multiple consumers have reported to BBB Serving Mississippi that they’ve been approached on Facebook by users sharing links for “free” U.S. Government grants. In the end, the grants don’t exist and the messages are attempts to steal personal information and money.
The scam generally works like this: you either receive a new friend request along with a message, or a message from a current friend detailing information on free grant money from the government. Often times the message will list other Facebook users who have successfully received the money in an attempt to convince you they’re legitimate. The message may include a link to a law office or phony government website. It’s possible the scammer might even include a real U.S. Government website to appear legitimate. In the end you will be asked to supply personal information and a payment for processing fees.
Un-friend these folks immediately, they are after your money and personal information. If the message came from a person you know in real life, odds are their account has been hacked. Report the abuse to Facebook and contact them offline immediately.
“Scammers are using social networking sites because it appears to b more personally directed than an email,” says John O’Hara, President & CEO of BBB serving Mississippi. “However these scammers try to contact you, phone, email,or social network; you never pay money for a ‘free’ government grant and the U.S. Government doesn’t contact citizens directly to apply.”
Here are some BBB tips on avoiding this and other similar online scams:
Don’t give out your bank account information to strangers. 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. Never give this information out in a Facebook message.
The government doesn’t call, text or email. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be very cautious of any unsolicited calls, text messages or emails you receive.
Don’t pay 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’ve 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 online. The only official access point for federal grant-making agencies is www.grants.gov.
Be careful with friend requests from strangers. Sure we all want to have new friends, but try to keep your social networking friends to folks you have a real-world connection to. If it appears the request is from a business contact or friend of a friend, send them a message after accepting to see who they really are. If they don’t seem real or connected to your life, un-friend them.
Don’t blindly trust your current Facebook friends. You may receive a message from someone you have known all your life. That doesn’t mean you must trust them explicitly. If the message seems out-of-character their account may have been hacked or cloned. Contact them offline and let them know.
Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the messenger says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that he is. There’s no such agency. Take a moment to check the alleged agency out. Be aware that websites are easily spoofed and faked. Real U.S. Government websites always end in “.gov”.
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.
Start with trust. Check with BBB if you’ve received a suspicious grant offer. For More Information To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To find out more about scams or to report one, go to BBB Scam Stopper.