12 Scams of Christmas: Scam promises free government grant money

Posted at 9:06 AM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 12:06:06-05

(KERO) — The government provided assistance to many Americans during the pandemic but be skeptical of any offers for free money in the form of a grant.

A lot of these scams start on Facebook.

This official looking badge and long description is how the texter roped in a Maryland woman.

Letting her know this wasn’t a loan. No refunds. No interest. This is a grant from the trusts community foundation fund, and if approved, she can use it on whatever she’d like.

She believed that her friend benefited from it so she filled out the application, answering questions like next of kin, phone carrier, bank account balance, IRA balance, and how she wanted to receive payment.

After sending a copy of her driver’s license, she was approved.

She could choose how much grant money she’d like up to $5 million and she’d only be responsible for a shipping fee, a fraction of the grant amount.

She asked if she could pay by credit card. The man, claiming to be Dick Durbin, a senior senator from Illinois, responded definitely not.

She became more skeptical. The scammer got more desperate and that’s when she shut him down.

"Anything that requires you to send money before you receive money, yah, that’s a delete."

Bill Sieglein, a cybersecurity expert, said his mom received a similar message.

"She said a friend of hers was getting all this money from grants, it was grant money, and she had to send a little bit of money but she got alot of money, and i said, mom, she’s lying to you. She never got any money, she sent money and she’s waiting for it," said Sieglein.

And it’s possible that friend wasn’t the one sending those messages.

"On social media someone takes what’s called account hijacking where they’ve gotten the credentials and actually take over your account, or they’ve created one that looks just like yours. It’s not hard to find a photo of you online, I can put that on an account, make it look just like yours, almost the same name and then start friending all the same people I'd want you to connect with me," said Sieglein.

However they reel you in, it’s easy to vet the offer.

"Does it seem like it’s coming from a government agency email address? Then go research it, look it up online."

Not to mention that this person clearly isn't Dick Durbin.

And the United States of America is spelled wrong

Federal grants exist, but they’re usually given to specific programs, and to local governments, organizations, and universities, not individuals. The government also doesn’t charge fees to apply for grants.