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Government Grant Scams Are on Social Media and Finding Victims

Government Grant Scams

How to spot, avoid and report a government grant scam.

It’s not surprising that con artists would find another way to try to fool us and perhaps steal a few hundred dollar in the process. This time, it’s about government grant scams.

This scam uses the age-old formula that works on lowering our suspicions and fools us into taking the bait.

The promise is free money (more or less) from the Federal government in the form of government grants.

While government grants do exist, scammers have been making up new (fake) grants to lure victims. In other cases, they may refer to a real grant, but scammers have no way of helping you obtain a grant…they just find a way to steal your money.

The grant doesn’t exist—or even if it does, the person or website helping you get the grant (for a fee) is fraudulent.

Why the government grant scam is working so well.

People have been reporting falling for this scam, and here’s why it might be working so well.

  • Who wouldn’t like to have more money right now, and if there might be a way to get it easily and eagerly, we’re all ears.
  • We’ve all probably heard something about government grants, so if we get a direct message about one it’s probably going to get our attention.
  • Everyone seems to be on social media, so a friend and social media connection tells us about a grant that’s available, we’re open to learning more.

Free, easy money. A way of getting it that seems plausible. News from a friend indicating that this might be okay. It all works at getting some people interested enough, and eager enough, to take the next step to find out more.

In other words, to take the bait and get lured into a government grant scam.

Absolutely Doable and It's Free.

Here are the warning signs of a government grant-related scam:

You see a message in an email or social media post that suggests you could be eligible for a grant to spend on your family to help get by. Or maybe you get a special phone call from the Federal Grants Administration letting you know you’re eligible to apply for a government grant that can bring you money.

Money in Uncle Sam's Hat

On social media, a scammer is no friend of yours.

This scam has been on social media quite a bit, and Facebook messenger has been one way the scam has been delivered.

You get a Facebook message that seems to be a friend or someone on your contacts list you trust. The message might simply say they want you to know about a government grant that’s available—one that they applied for—that provided them $5,000, free and easy. They provide a link to the website to apply for your own grant.

Here’s why it’s a government grant scam.

It’s a scam because 1) the government does have benefit programs to help families with housing and food expenses, but there are not grants that offer such payouts. The AARP has made it clear to its members that the Federal Govt. in the U.S. does not offer or give grants to individuals to help pay bills.

So, where did your friend go wrong? Turns out, the message isn’t from your friend at all (at least you should hope it isn’t!).

Social media platforms are being used.

Most people won’t fall for a scam that comes their way or seems too good to be true.

But what happens if you get some news from a friend and someone you trust that tells you about a great opportunity?

Now you’re listening.

So, scammers are going into the impersonation business with their schemes, and they are finding ways to impersonate people you may know and would listen to. Here’s how they’re doing that. 

  • They are hacking social media accounts, like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. They take over someone’s account and send messages with links that are harmful, or they reach out to your contacts with ads or other fraudulent messages.
  • They create look-alike profiles of people you know (by stealing photos and using personal details). They then send messages over the platform hoping to catch you off guard. That’s not too hard to do, because most people wouldn’t be expecting to be spoofed on platforms that everyone uses.

But that is what’s happening. Here’s a story to illustrate that.

“It was someone I trusted…so I thought.”

As we found, our susceptibility can change with the times. Covid showed us how true that was. Here’s an account of how the pandemic and the government grant scheme came together.

“I was contacted on Facebook by someone who was a leader at my church, I thought,” Daisy, says. “They had an important message for me. I was laid off and unemployed due to Covid-19, and people in my church knew that. This message from a church contact said there were grants available for people in my position. They told me they saw my name on a list of eligible recipients. There was a link to a website for more information.”

Obviously, the scammer had hacked the account of Daisy’s friend. A little legwork told the hacker who might be vulnerable for a scam. Their hunches paid off.

Daisy was lured into the trap. “The scam was convincing because it came from someone I knew and trusted, or so I believed,” she explains.

“The website encouraged me to pay the fees required to process my application for the grant. I gave them $1,000.00 of my unemployment benefits, and of course never saw any grant money. That was extra painful.”

Lesson learned, but too late.

Here’s the important takeaway for those reading this article:

  • Don’t believe a caller who claims you can apply for a grant over the phone. Legitimate government grant programs require you to fill out and submit an application. 
  • Don’t pay a fee to a company that says it will help you find grants. You can check directly with government agencies about grant opportunities, for free. 

In other words, if you get or see messages promoting grants, you should immediately recognize that it is a scam!

Learn more about avoiding scams and fraud.

Chris Parker, the founder and CEO of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com started the Easy Prey podcast in 2020 to help raise the publics’ awareness of scams, cybercrime and other online and real-world dangers.

He’s interviewed various experts on topics ranging from cybersecurity and identity theft, to romance scams and cryptocurrency dangers. Look for the Easy Prey podcast on your favorite platform or click on the link below to learn more.

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