The Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia Better Business Bureau is offering tips and advice for consumers to avoid con artists who use Facebook to promote fraudulent grants.
Watch out for phony social media posts and messages from fake "friends." Scammers are using Facebook to entice victims with "free" government grant money, according to recent BBB Scam Tracker reports.
You get a message from a Facebook friend or spot a post on someone's wall. According to the message, the government is awarding "free grants" to eligible citizens. If you meet the broad criteria, your application is guaranteed to be accepted, and you'll never have to repay the money.
If you reply to the "friend," he or she will point you to someone posing as an official government agent on Facebook. This scammer will congratulate you on your eligibility and good fortune.
Sound too good to be true? That's because it is. The scammer may ask you to wire money to cover a one-time grant "processing fee." In other versions, the con artist claims to need your checking account information to deposit your grant directly into your account. Whatever the story, you will never see the grant money, and you've opened yourself up to a scam.
How to spot the scam:
The government communicates using postal mail, not Facebook. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be cautious of any unsolicited social media posts, calls, text messages or e-mails you receive.
Don't pay any money 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 have already been awarded.
Be wary of look-a-like government agencies. Just because the caller says he's from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean that he is or that such an agency exists. When in doubt, do a quick online search.
Pick up the phone. If you receive a suspicious call or e-mail, call the local government agency to check its legitimacy. Look for the phone number on previous correspondence or the official government website. Don't call the number in the email.
Read more about government grant scams at the Federal Trade Commission website, ftc.gov.
Visit bbb.org/canton to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, report a scam with Scam Tracker, read tips, follow the BBB on social media and more.