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Voice of the Consumer: Don't fall for the grant scam

By: betty sexton KKTV 11 News
October 2, 2016 Updated: October 2, 2016 at 8:48 pm
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I hate telling you about one scam over and over again, but this one bears repeating. The reason? Crooks change their stories just enough that it catches people off guard.

The old federal grant scam has resurfaced and sadly, it's claimed two local victims. Two Colorado Springs women were told they had been awarded a grant and big money would soon be headed their way. They didn't realize they were talking to crooks until it was too late. They told me their story, so I could share it with you. They don't want anyone else to fall for it.

Barbara James told me she was in tight spot so when the phone rang, she thought it was an answer to prayer. She was told the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was awarding her $9,000. The fraudster told her it was her reward from the "U.S. Treasury Grant Department" in Washington, D.C. Barbara said, "I felt like a breakthrough had come through and I really didn't care how it came through. I just wanted it."

Barbara was first instructed to pay taxes for the grant upfront. She followed the crook's directions, going to the store, getting iPhone gift cards and loading them with cash. Then she relayed the numbers on the back of the cards to the grant administrator. After she paid the "taxes," Barbara was then told she had to cover additional fees. She followed the directions again. After she had burned through $900 she realized she had to stop. Barbara told me, "Don't let it slip you by because I promise you, it ain't real."

There is a Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but that's the only kernel of truth. A spokeswoman told me this scam has been going around since April. They want everyone to know they don't keep grant money or any other type of funds or accounts for people. They also never ever call or email people, asking for money or personal information. If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the Federal Reserve Bank, it's bogus.

Besides Barbara, another woman named Kathleen was told she was getting a $100,000 federal government/United Nations grant. A man claiming to be agent Sean Alexander even shared a Facebook page with her, and asked her to wire three separate payments. Like Barbara, Kathleen wanted to believe big money was around the corner. She got her hopes up, wired payments totaling $350, and waited. She realized later that it was all a lie. Both women say they've learned a painful lesson and they won't ever fall for this kind of scheme again.

Remember, if you get an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is. The best place to learn about real federal grants is at Grants.gov. Most of those require you to fill out paperwork and be vetted before any money is ever awarded. Whenever strangers ask you to pay money upfront, turn on those alarm bells. If something feels off, drop it. Also know if you are ever suspicious about an offer, you can call 11 Call for Action at 719-457-8211. We would rather you learn upfront about a scam, then later when it's too late. My goal is to keep putting marks in the win column for us consumers, not the slimy, conniving crooks.

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Contact Betty Sexton at bsexton@kktv.com or 578-0000.

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