January , 2019

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CHICAGO, IL -  A steady stream of scams have been reported to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) throughout the summer and there seems to be no end to that trend. Most recently consumers have contacted the BBB about calls regarding U.S. Government Grants. The scammers claim to be representatives of the U.S. Federal Government and place calls to individuals informing them that they are the recipient of guaranteed grants.

Carol Finstein of Waukegan received a call with an offer for a federal grant. “They said that there was a federal grant available to anyone that was either a senior citizen or disabled. They said that I was entitled to $7,000 but there were legal and other fees to pay in advance.” Ms. Finstein was told that she should make the payment using a GreenDot card. “It started with $500 and they kept asking for more and finally added up to $2,400. I borrowed the last $300 they asked for from a friend.”

The story the scammer told Hosea Blakely of Rockford was slightly different. “I received a call from a Mr. Watson who told me that once a year guaranteed U.S. Government Grants are issued and I would receive $8,600. All I had to do was place a call and within 30 minutes the money would be deposited into his account.” Mr. Blakely was not asked for any advanced payments, only his account information.

“These kinds of scams often have two goals,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “First, they want to milk trusting consumers out of their money and secondly they target them for identity theft.”

“Senior Citizens are particularly vulnerable in large part because they are at home during the day to receive the calls and they often get taken by surprise by these fast talking con artists,” Bernas added.

That was not the case with Mae Nichols, also of Rockford. “I received a phone call saying they were from the United States government and they wanted to give me $8,000 for being a good citizen. All they needed was my credit card number or banking and they would put it in there. I told them I can wait, just mail it to me. When they said no, I hung up on them.”

Additionally, Bernas notes, “While it’s true the U.S. Federal Government does give out billions of dollars each year in grant money, most grants are given to help students pay for college or for specifically defined reasons such as for research or to businesses in particular industries.”

There are a few basic rules that can keep you from losing money to these government grant scams:

  • Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money out of 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.
  • Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it isn’t really free. A real government agency won’t 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 www.grants.gov.
  • Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that it is true. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to confirm whether or not the agency exists and is legitimate.
  • Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
  • 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, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

For more tips on protecting yourself against a data breach, visit www.bbb.org, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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