Multiple VERIFY readers reached out to ask about suspicious grant offers they got from people claiming to represent the federal government on Facebook.
One person asked about a “Trust Community Foundation” that offered as much as $100,000 in grant money available with “essentially no strings attached.”
Another reader was messaged by someone on Facebook about an apparent government organization called “American Development Grant Program” that they said had received $70,000 from. When the reader followed up with the alleged grant organization, they were told they had to pay as much as $1,000 for processing fees before they would be paid.
Does the federal government make unsolicited grant offers to people?
No, the federal government does not make unsolicited grant offers to people. Unsolicited grant offers appearing to come from the federal government are scams.
WHAT WE FOUND
The federal government will not reach out to people to offer grants they’ve never applied for, and it will not directly contact people to tell them to apply for a grant. These unsolicited grant offers are scams.
There are a number of ways the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) say government grant scammers may target you. Sometimes they use online ads for their fake grants, and sometimes they may contact you directly by calling, texting or emailing you. But the most common way for a government grant scammer to target their victims, according to the AARP, is to use social media.
Through social media, a scammer may impersonate a person you trust by hacking or cloning that person’s account, or they might just pose as a government agent who either messages you directly or advertises their fake grant with a public post. If impersonating someone you trust, they will often tell you a story about how they’ve received and used thousands of dollars from a grant they apparently applied for and were awarded.
Government grant scams often have the same goals as most scams: they want to trick you into giving the scammer money, or trick you into giving the scammer your personal information.
The scammer may claim you have to pay for processing fees before you can claim your grant money, and will often tell you to make the payment through a money order or similar payment method that’s difficult to track. A scammer might just contact you to try to sell you a list of available grants — even though the only official list for federal grants is available for free through grants.gov.
If the scammer has told you that you’re qualified for a grant or told you that you should apply for one, they could be looking to collect your credit card number, banking information or Social Security number through their “application.” They could drain money from your banking accounts without your knowledge or commit identity theft with this information.
Regardless of the scammer’s end goal, they never have any intention of sending the victim the grant money they were supposedly awarded.
Luckily, once you know what to look out for, it’s easy to spot a government grant scam. Grants.gov has a page that lists the major red flags that a grant offer isn’t legit.
A government agent shouldn’t ever directly contact you to tell you about a grant you haven’t applied for. The government doesn’t notify individuals that they may qualify for a grant and they should apply for one, and it doesn’t directly reach out to people to tell them they’re being awarded for a grant they’ve never applied for.
You shouldn’t need to pay a fee to receive grant money. The federal government will never require grant recipients pay money to receive their grant. While some grants require you to include financial information in your application, you will only ever have to submit that while using a government website with a .gov URL.
There is no such thing as a federal grant that doesn’t require an application. If someone tells you that you can claim a grant without ever applying for it, then it’s a scam. All federal grants first require you fill out an application before you can be awarded them, and there are no federal grants awarded based on a raffle, drawing or lottery.
You shouldn’t be able to apply for a federal grant anywhere except for a .gov website. If someone claiming to represent the government tells you to fill out your application for a grant over social media, text message, email or phone call, that’s a scam. Government websites are the only places you can apply for federal grants.
Any government agency or department offering a grant should be real. Many government grant scams pose as fake government agencies, departments or programs with names that sound like they could be legitimate. Check online to see if you can find any information about the agency or department offering you the grant; if you can’t find anything, that’s a major red flag.
A federal grant should be awarded for use in a specific way. Federal grants are usually awarded for specific programs, research or projects, and are never awarded so that you can use the money however you want. While there might be programs to help you pay off bills or start a business, there are no government grants designed for that purpose.
“If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is,” the AARP says of government grant scams.