DAYTON — Scam phone calls and letters seem to be an everyday occurrence, but recently scammers have turned to Facebook Messenger as a means of contact. Scammers are hacking into people’s Facebook accounts and are messaging their friends and family claiming they are eligible for grants. All they have to do is send a small amount of money via wire or pre-paid gift card to receive their winnings.
In May of 2018, BBB received a Scam Tracker report from a Springfield woman who lost $2,000 in a Facebook grant scam. The scammer, posing as the woman’s pastor’s wife, told her she was eligible for a $150,000 grant, but she would have to pay $2,000 up front via gift cards. When she reached out to her pastor’s wife through a means other than Facebook Messenger, the pastor’s wife said she knew nothing about this.
What is a grant? A grant is a federally funded financial award typically given to organizations or institutions that support or benefit the community. Organizations often go through an extensive grant application process requiring time and formal documentation. Grants are not given to individuals as a personal prize. If you are contacted by someone stating you are personally eligible for a grant, it is a scam.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a grant scam, report this information to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker), an online tool that enables people to report scams to help prevent others from falling prey to similar cons. The easy-to-use tool collects and presents scam data in a searchable online heat map, showing users the number and types of scams reported in their communities. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission (consumer.ftc.gov).
Use the following tips to protect yourself:
•Don’t assume an offer in a message from a Facebook friend is legitimate. Call or talk to them in person to verify if they contacted you.
•Remember, government agencies do not communicate through social media avenues like Facebook. So, be wary of unsolicited messages.
•Don’t pay for a “free” grant. It’s not free, if you have to pay to claim it. And, do not send money via wire or prepaid gift cards.
•Educate yourself on the terms of a grant. To receive a grant, you must first apply for it and go through an extensive process.
•Visit www.grants.gov for a list of nearly all grants available to the public.
John North, president & CEO of BBB serving Dayton/Miami Valley, says, “BBB receives phone calls regularly regarding Facebook grant scams. It’s important to educate yourself and be cautious when you’re online. Contact our BBB to check out organizations making offers. Visit bbb.org or call 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301.”