Scams related to the coronavirus pandemic are spreading as fast as the virus itself. Scammers continue to take advantage of the fear, concern and interests in all things related to the coronavirus. The latest scam involves phony government grants for which the targeted victims of the scam are told they are eligible. In some instances the funds for which you are told you are eligible are as high as $150,000. The scams are being spread through social media posts, text messages, emails and phone calls. One of the many versions of this scam appears as a Facebook post informing people about a special grant to assist in the payment of medical bills. The post contains a link which takes you to the website of the non-existent federal agency described as the “U.S. Emergency Grants Federation.” In order to qualify for the grant you are required to provide your Social Security number. Of course there are no grants and when you provide your Social Security number to the scammer, he or she uses it to make you a victim of identity theft. In other versions of the scam you are required to pay a processing fee in order to receive your grant money. This is a red flag that this is a scam because the federal government does not charge fees for applying for grants. Many times Facebook is used as the medium through which people are contacted regarding these scams. 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. Last year there was a resurgence of a Facebook related scam that started 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.”
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. In addition, you can never be sure who is really contacting you when you receive a text message or phone call so you should be immediately skeptical of any such communication that asks for personal information or a payment.
The federal government does not charge any fee to apply for a grant. It also does not use Facebook or other social media to provide information about grants. 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 http://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 http://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 http://www.Benefits.gov.
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