The Federal Trade Commission is warning people about an increase in scams involving scammers convincing their victims that they are eligible for large government grants if they merely pay a processing fee.  This is a scam.  The federal government does not charge fees for applying for grants.  Additionally, the scammers perpetrating this scam also often ask for personal information such as your birth date and Social Security number which they use to make you a victim of identity theft.  Many times Facebook is used as the medium through which people are contacted regarding this scam.  It is not surprising that scammers use Facebook for these purposes.   The very popularity of Facebook and the fact that on Facebook you are communicating with your friends is reason enough for scammers to use Facebook as a platform for scams.  There has been a resurgence of a Facebook related scam that  starts with a private message  that appears to come from one of your friends telling you that he or she just received a large government grant and that it was easy to do.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, some of the key phrases used by scammers that you should be on the lookout for are “We do all the work.  You just pay a processing fee;” and  “You can’t get this information anywhere else.”

TIPS

Facebook accounts and email accounts are relatively easy for a skilled cybercriminal to hack so whenever you receive an email or message urging you to click on a link, provide personal information or, as in this scam, send money, you should always be skeptical and confirm that the communication is legitimate before responding. You should be particularly skeptical of  any request to wire money or provide a cash card or gift card number because once funds have been transferred in this fashion, they are impossible to retrieve.

The federal government does not charge any fee to apply for a grant. Additionally, it is important to remember that government grants are not given for personal purposes, but only for public projects. People looking for legitimate information about grants, loans and other financial aid information for higher education can go to the federal government’s website www.StudentAid.ed.gov.   Information about federal loans for housing, disaster relief, education and veterans benefits can be found at the federal government’s website www.GovLoans.gov.  Finally For information about  a range of other federal benefits for which you may be eligible, you can go the federal government’s website www.Benefits.gov.

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