Fort Wayne woman tricked by government grant scam

Fort Wayne woman tricked by government grant scam

She lost $800 before realizing she was being conned

Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana warns of an ongoing government grant scam targeting low-income victims and tricking them into believing that they may be eligible for a government grant if they pay a fee.

A Fort Wayne woman recently reported losing $800 to this scam. A friend from the woman’s church forwarded her a Facebook message with information for a $50,000 income-based government grant. Because the message was from a friend, and believed the information was legitimate. She continued the conversation and “applied” for the grant because she is low income and on disability. The profile turned out to be a scammer. 

The woman was told to purchase $200 in eBay gift cards from a local Walgreens and provide the unique bar code as payment. Then, she was instructed to send another $100 iTunes gift card; this continued until she had sent the scammers a total of $800 in gift cards. 

She received a congratulatory message requesting a photo of her driver's license and verification of her home address to receive the grant. The message informed her that a check would be delivered by 2 p.m. the next day. The day came, but the grant never did.  

A later message, supposedly from Homeland Security, said the FedEx truck carrying her grant had been stopped and she needed to send another $2,000 in order for it to be released. That’s when she called her pastor, who advised her to call the police. The police informed her that she had been scammed. 

“Any time you’re asked to pay for something with a gift card, that should be a red flag,” said Marjorie Stephens, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. “No legitimate company will ask for payment via gift cards.” 

Use BBB’s tips to recognize and avoid this government grant scam: 

  • Free money doesn’t come easy. Scammers would have you believe that government grants are there for the taking. In reality, obtaining a government grant is an involved process, and one where the grant seeker pursues the funds, not the other way around. If someone is actively soliciting you to give you money, that’s a red flag that you are dealing with an imposter. 
  • Do not pay any money for a "free" government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it is not really free. A legitimate government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies can be found at www.grants.gov.  
  • Check for look-alikes. A caller may say he is from the “Federal Grants Administration” – which does not exist. Be sure to do your research and see if an agency or organization is real. Find contact info on your own and call them directly to be sure the person you’ve heard from is not a scammer. 
  • Be careful with unsolicited calls asking for your banking information. Scammers will cold call, asking basic questions to see if you qualify for a grant, and then ask for your banking information saying they need to collect a one-time processing fee and directly deposit your money. Never provide this information to anyone who calls you. 

If you spot a scam, whether you've lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.