IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - If a caller tells you that you were selected for a federal grant you never applied for, it is a scam, the Better Business Bureau Serving the Snake River Region said.
Recently, Lyle Woolstenhulme of Idaho Falls got a call allegedly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury saying he had been selected from hundreds of residents to receive a ?free grant? worth thousands.
The catch: To receive the grant, he needed to pay a $210 processing fee by sending a Western Union money order.
?I said, ?I wouldn?t pay anything for a ?free grant? unless I could be assured the grant was real,?? Woolstenhulme said in a BBB news release.
At that point, the caller said he would have to talk with Mike Newman, an account supervisor, at (202) 657-6496. Woolstenhulme was given an identification number.
Instead, Woolstenhulme called BBB. The "free grant" is a variation on the free money scam that has been around for aged.
?The federal government and private foundations do not select grant winners by random. Actually, the grant process is generally long and very competitive and only those who apply are considered,? the BBB said. ?Remember the government does not call people to give away money. Whether by a phone call or email, the grant is a scam. No one can be awarded a grant if they did not apply.?
When BBB called the number, ?Mike Newman" had a heavy accent, refused to identity the nature of his business or the nature of his call to the Woolstenhulme.
He said he was with the Treasury Department and ask for the BBB caller?s ID number. When ?Newman? learned that he was being called by the BBB, he said, ?You have no business calling me.? He then hung up.
The BBB offered the following advice:
-- Watch out for phrases like "free grant money." Grants do not have to be repaid; thus there is no need to use the word "free."
-- The federal government and private foundations do not usually give out grants for personal debt consolidation, or to pay for other personal needs.
-- Grants are usually given only to serve a social good such as bringing jobs to an area, training under-employed youth, preserving a bit of history, etc.
-- Visit your public library. Ask a librarian to help you find reference books describing foundations and the criteria they use in awarding grants.
-- Be wary if you are asked to provide money up-front to an unknown company before the company will provide the services promised.
-- If you are having financial problems, there are local non-profit credit-counseling services that may be able to assist you with your problem at no charge.