Roanoke, VA (February 7, 2014) – A U.S. grant scam is back in the area attempting to lure in consumers with promises of grants in the thousands of dollars, this time fraudulently using the name of an actual U.S. government agency.
Residents in Western Virginia are receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to represent the Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR) offering substantial grant funds to consumers with “clean credit ratings.” According to several consumers, the individuals making these phone calls have hard to understand foreign accents, and ask for the consumer by name. The callers claim the consumer is eligible for grant funds due to their clean credit rating and history of paying bills on time. BBB first reported on a similar grant scam in August of 2013.
According to an alert issued by COFAR, victims are told they have been selected to receive a government grant ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. In order to receive the grant money, the representative explains a "processing fee" ranging between $150 and $700 must be paid and asks individuals for bank account information.
The COFAR is not a grant making organization. The COFAR will never request banking information, social security numbers or other personally identifiable information to facilitate the issuance of a “grant”. Grants are not benefits or entitlements. A Federal grant is an award of financial assistance from a Federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States.
“The U.S. Government is never going to call and offer you a grant over the phone,” said Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA. “There is a formal application process in place to qualify for Federal grants, and they are never offered in the form of unsolicited phone calls. This is just another phishing attempt to steal your personal information and money.”
One consumer told BBB that she received the call from an 818-850-7743 phone number. BBB called that number and spoke with a woman who claimed to represent COFAR. She claimed it could not be the BBB calling as she “knew the BBB number and was in contact with them all the time.” When pressed for further information, she hung up the phone. A follow-up call to the number resulted in a busy signal.
Please note the following:
- No government grant-making agency will make phone calls; send email or letters to solicit money or personal banking information from a potential grant recipient.
- There are no processing fees for federal grants.
- Federal grants are not issued for personal use, but are intended for institutions and non-profits to carry out projects with a public purpose.
- Know who you're dealing with on the web. Scam artists will often post a website with a name similar to a legitimate site.
- If you have provided personal banking information to anyone claiming to be associated with a Federal grant agency, call your bank immediately to prevent unauthorized access to your account.
- To obtain Federal grant information and applications, visit the following web sites: www.grants.gov, www.usa.gov, www.govbenefits.gov.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam:
- Be wary of anyone offering you something for “free” in exchange for your personal information. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not provide your bank account information, Medicare number, Social Security number or any other personal information to unknown individuals over the phone.
- Check out the company's BBB Business Review at http://www.bbb.org to see its BBB rating, complaint history and more.
For more advice on fighting fraud, please visit www.bbb.org or contact the BBB Serving Western VA at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution service, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBBWesternVA and on Facebook at facebook.com/BBBwesternVA