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BBB Warns of Government Grant Scams Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

As consumers are feeling the crunch of reduced income due to state mandatory closures, cutbacks, and loss of income, scammers are  increasing their efforts. Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Greater Cleveland is warning area residents to be on guard for government grant scams.

Recently, a woman from Lakewood, Ohio reported “On 4/13/2020 evening I received a message…(from) my friend Pete on messenger that showed his face. He asked how I was doing so I replied. The conversation was normal for a while until he said 'Did you hear the news? I saw your name on the Lion Foundation list.’ I did not know what he was referring to and he explained that it is to help workers and people with disabilities to help them financially and maintain their standard of living. All this time I believed that I was talking to my friend Pete. He told me to click on the link for the free money. I asked if it was a scam and he replied ‘no, it's real.’ In the conversation he asked for my name and address. He said he got the free money. He made out a check for $2000 and 6 hours later a UPS driver dropped off a check for $100,000. There were different levels you could pay and different amounts you would receive. He wanted me to send a picture but I declined. He asked for my Facebook [sic] address, monthly income, and gender. He kept asking, 'Don't you trust me?' I came to the conclusion that this was not Pete, so I asked him ‘what surgery did I have in the past year?,’ which I knew Pete would know, but this person did not. The conversation ended there and I have not heard from him.”

Another Ohio woman also reported her recent experience. "I received a text from a former coworker through Facebook messenger who asked if I was aware of a program that awarded grants to persons who were looking to start their own business, or receive money to pay down debts, etc. My former coworker gave a testimonial of how she received a $500,000 grant...and outlined details relating to how I could also apply for this...I was also fed the line by the person posing as my friend that [they were] such an upstanding Christian, and that I would also have to pay a small fee in order to process the grant...As the texting progressed, I unwittingly exchanged information with the person (copy of driver’s license) and even sent the spammer cash in the amount of $1,000, only for the spammer to turn around and ask for additional funds.  I then was asked to pay for taxes and clearance fee of $4,960 and that is when I started questioning the scammer.  As of today, I got a text through messenger from the scammer stating that my former coworker's Facebook account was hacked and (to not to) respond to any messages from her old account.  I am usually a good judge of character of this sort of thing but with all the craziness that is going on in the world these days, I let my guard down, never again. I definitely learned from this incident.”

Additionally, a consumer from Euclid, Ohio also reported to the BBB that  “I have received multiple texts from someone claiming to be with the federal government offering a $6,000 government grant for $500. They also offered a grant up to $80,000 in exchange for $5,000 up front. They wanted cash and claimed that they would have UPS would pick up the money.  I knew it was a scam and did not send any money.  Their phone number is 559-245-9098.  I wanted to report the scam.”

Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland is providing these additional tips to help protect area consumers from scammers.

Be skeptical and use trusted resources - Verify posts on social media with outside, reputable sources. Facebook pages can be hacked and that “friend” who is messaging you could be a scammer.  

Government grants are awarded for very limited purposes - Go to grants.gov for the facts on government grants. 

Do not pay upfront fees to receive loans or grants - Scammers often will require immediate payment upfront under the guise to expedite loan processing, provide a more favorable interest rate, or provide a grant. These tactics are often accompanied by high-pressure sales pitches. Consumers should not fall for these techniques.

Guard personal information - Do not provide your Social Security number, bank account information, birthdate or other private information to strangers.

If individuals have spotted a scam (whether or not they’ve lost money), they can report it to BBB.org/ScamTrackerThese reports can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Consumers can also visit the Scam Tracker website to view the latest reported scams in their neighborhood or across North America.

ABOUT BBB®For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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