When researching potential government business grant opportunities on the Internet be wary of scams because there are lots of them. The Internet is full of websites promising access to ‘free government money,’ ‘cash to start or expand a business’ or ‘free government grants for women or minorities.’
You’ve probably heard or seen the advertisements and websites. These companies claim to have “insiders” secrets to finding and obtaining government grants to pay off debt, buy a home, start a business or just about anything else you’d like to do. They advertise on television, in newspapers, on the Internet and they call people on the phone. They sound believable, look legitimate and may even offer a “money-back guarantee,” but all they do is prey on people, take their money and leave them empty-handed. Here are the three most common ways these people and companies operate:
- An advertisement (on television, in print or on the Internet) says that the U.S. Government gives away millions (or billions) of dollars in grants each year to help individuals pay off debt, start a business, buy a house or do any number of other things. All you have to do is buy their book or guide that promises to tell you all the little known secrets to finding and applying for government grants that you don’t have to pay back. If you receive anything at all though, it’s usually a ‘Government Grant Information Guide’ (or something similar) that tells you how and where to apply for government grants. But here’s the catch – the Federal government does not give money to individuals to start a business or pay off debts. In any case, the information – as useless as it may be – is usually outdated and provides nothing more than what is already available to the public for free.
- A website makes the same promise as above. In order to gain access to the site and the “insider” information though, you have to purchase a subscription to the site or you might be offered a low-cost free trial. Once you’ve paid the fee, you get access to the site, which doesn’t provide information of any use to you at all. And worse, the next month a recurring subscription fee starts appearing on your credit card statement (anywhere from $19.99 to $49.99). In order to cancel it, you have to jump through a number of complicated hoops.
- You receive a phone call, saying that you have been “approved for a grant from the federal government” in amounts that range from $5,000 to $30,000. They often lie about where they’re calling from and like to use official-sounding names, hoping that you’ll think that they’re calling from a government agency. They usually say that you qualify for a grant because you paid your taxes on time or because you’re a woman, a senior citizen, a minority or something similar. Once you’re hooked, the telemarketer will move in for the kill and try and get your bank account information so they can deduct a processing fee of $199.00 to $249.00. Of course the grant never materializes, you’re out the fee and it’s next to impossible to get your money back even though they may have promised you a money back guarantee. A variation of this scam is a “free grants” ad in the classifieds, inviting you to call a toll-free number for more information. Once they get you on the phone, the rest of the scenario is the same.
What the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says:
- Don’t ever pay any money for a “free” government grant. It’s not free if you have to pay for it. Government agencies would never ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded – or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is .
- Never give your bank account information to someone you do not know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” or something similar, it doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch – or not.
- File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online on their website (www.ftc.gov) or call 1-877-382-4357.
Virtually all of the information you need to know about government business grant programs is available online for free. You do not need to purchase any special ‘guide’ and there are no ‘insider’s secrets’ to finding government business grant opportunities. You can find all of these opportunities yourself for free–keep following me and I’ll show you how.