The allure of getting free money from the government often draws a lot of interest, especially from those looking for financial help.
That’s exactly what con artists are preying upon in the “government grant scam,” an operation that’s already cost one Hawaii small business owner $100,000.
It starts with a phone call, email or postcard in the mail, telling you you’re qualified to receive free money from the government “for anything from helping to build your business, to go to school, to help you pay off your mortgage,” said Greg Dunn, Better Business Bureau Hawaii CEO.
You’re then asked to meet with someone in person who will help you fill out the application form in exchange for a fee.
“They’re building rapport. They’re letting them know, ‘I want to meet with you and talk to you about this,’ and build confidence, build confidence in them on your part so that they can then extract large sums of money out of people,” Dunn explained.
Dunn says one Hawaii small business owner lost $100,000 after being promised several million dollars in return.
The Hawaii Better Business Bureau says that’s just one of several Hawaii victims among the dozens of reports they’ve been getting about the scheme.
“One of the things that the folks say to try and get your personal information and take further advantage of you is that we need your checking account number in order to deposit the grant money into your account,” Dunn said.
The BBB says you should never have to pay money in order to receive a government grant.
Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know and beware of phone calls from people claiming to be from a government agency.
“Your caller ID on your phone can be manipulated very easily. Many of these contacts are originated by telephone and it’ll come up on the caller ID and it’ll say Federal Grant Administration,” Dunn warned.
Dunn says if you’ve fallen victim to the scheme, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission want to hear from you. Click the following to file a complaint: