Warning About Federal Grant Scams

Federal grant scams are sweeping through Ohio, Attorney General Richard Cordray warned.

"Since early June, my office has received more than a dozen reports of Ohioans who were targeted by scammers posing as grant officers," Cordray said. "Many of the calls appear to originate in the 202 area code. This creates an illusion of legitimacy because 202 is a Washington D.C. area code."

The reported scams are reaching consumers through phone calls, e-mails and letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service. All use the term "grant" and most require the recipient to pay a percentage upfront before acquiring the "free" money.

"Scammers are targeting Ohioans who are in a weakened position. It's an approach that preys upon the desperation and hope of struggling individuals, and it is reprehensible," Cordray said. "I encourage anyone who receives an offer that sounds too good to be true to contact my office at (800) 282-0515 for more information before taking any kind of action. This is a good time to check in with other family members, especially older family members, to make sure they understand how to avoid these kinds of problems."

Cordray offers the following tips to avoid the "grant" scams:

  • Be wary of mailings that appear to be from federal, state or other governmental agencies. Don't assume that a letter or postcard is actually from the government just because it uses words such as "federal," "stimulus package" or "grant." Even if the sender's name sounds official or legitimate, the originator might be phony.
  • To determine if a letter, e-mail message or service is really from the government, contact the government agency in question from a number you know to be correct. For example, log onto the agency's actual Web site, such as www.irs.gov, and use a phone number or e-mail address suggested on the site.
  • Be skeptical if you receive a "grant" check or other unexpected check in the mail. It may be a fake check scam. If you are instructed to deposit the check and use the money to start services associated with the stimulus plan, or if you are asked to send some money back, keeping a portion of the check for yourself, it is most likely a scam.
  • NEVER send money to a stranger through a wire transfer service. Don't trust requests for advance fees or upfront payment.

Ohioans who feel that they are the targets of scams should contact Cordray's office at www.SpeakOutOhio.gov or (800) 282-0515.

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