Have you ever seen an advertisement featuring a photo of President Obama informing you that you qualify for a government grant? Or telling you that if you are over the age of 45 you may qualify for a government grant to go back to school? While so called “government grant offers” have been popular scams for years, during the most recent recession grant scams have taken off in order to prey on individuals struggling to make ends meet or find new work.
Government grant offers take on many forms and often appear to be government websites themselves, utilizing American flags and the Statue of Liberty. However, these websites are not run or affiliated with the United States government. In the majority of cases, these websites do not themselves even offer grants, but rather, purport to offer a guide, service or “kit” for finding grants. Consumers are induced into submitting payment information under the impression that they are either getting a “free trial” or will only be required to pay for shipping and handling. Instead, consumers are enrolled in a monthly membership fee at a cost often upwards of $50. Customers claim that the products either are never made available or provide little value. Government grant scams can additionally be offered to consumer through unsolicited telemarketing and mailings.
Where to Find Government Grant Info
Importantly, the United States government offers a wide range of information about obtaining grants. The primary resource for United States grants can be found at www.grants.gov. This website provides not only the ability to search for, apply, and obtain actual government grants, but also provides useful tips on how to avoid fraudulent offers:
How Can I Recognize and Avoid Grant Scams/Fraud?
1. You will not be contacted by the government to offer you a grant: The government does not contact people to offer them money. If you do qualify for a government grant, the government does not request payment for it.
2. There are no fees associated with applying for a government grant: Providing financial information to prove that you qualify for a government grant is typical, but you should never pay money to apply for a grant. People who run scams often claim to provide help and sometimes claim to be “federal government” officials, don’t be fooled by these scams that request money from you.
3. All government grants involve an application process: If you have not submitted an application for a government grant and someone claims you have been awarded one, it’s a scam. Grant money is not given over the phone for a fee. In order to qualify for a grant you must apply for the specific opportunity that you are qualified to apply for.
4. Government grants are awarded for explicit opportunities: Government Grants are typically awarded to states, cities, educational institutions, nonprofits and other organizations to fund research and other projects.
5. Government grant applications and information is free: Be cautious of offers that ask for your personal information (especially financial) when requesting a fee to access grant information. You can always access free information about government grants and other benefits at Grants.gov and Govbenefits.gov.