Several months ago, EducationGrant alerted readers about online con artists flooding the Internet with grant scam websites that claim special access to thousands of dollars in free government grants and offering you exclusive secrets to getting your hands on some of that money. Fortunately, once you know how to recognize an Internet grant scam website, the con is not hard to spot.
Well, 6 months later, the pictures of the president are gone, but the internet grant scam sites are still out there (still displaying logos of all the impressive TV news that supposedly endorse the site), still preying on people who are easily fooled by loud promises of easy money and inside information that will propel their grant applications to the head of the line.
How to Investigate an Internet Grant Site
I saw a “press release” for one of these helpful grant sites the other day and followed its trail. (Some press release websites allow you to publish your own press release for a fee.) Clicking on the link in the “press release” took me to GovernmentGrantSource, which looks very similar to countless other helpful grant sites that have since been identified as scams.
It even has a .net web address, which gives the impression that it’s a nonprofit, public service site, rather than a commercial site.
This website’s membership services will cost you $4 for a trial period and $40/month unless you cancel within a certain amount of time. (Hmm, sounds familiar.)
The site is careful to state its fees a little more clearly than similar sites did six months ago. But since they’re asking us for money up front, I thought I’d do a little homework on the company. I went onto the Internet and searched for the phone number listed in the press release’s Contact Information section. (Not the website’s free 888 phone number, but the contact number of the person who published the press release.)
It turns out that the area code is in Canada and phone number is for a cell phone reseller. OK, maybe both the helpful grant site and the cell phone reseller site are owned by the same larger company.
A little more exploration of my search results eventually led me to a site where I found the Canadian phone number together with an email address. The name in the email address matched the name in the press release’s Contact Information box.
Sounds like a clue.
Next, to see if there was a company website matching the email address, I changed the email address (name@) to a website address (www.) and put that address into my browser. Here’s where I ended up.
It’s certainly possible that this website owner has government grant information and application tips worth $40 a month (forever), but there’s no question that he also enjoys cars.
Check out what the Federal Trade Commission has to say about Internet scams:
- FTC YouTube Video: An Important Message from the Federal Trade Commission
How to Recognize an Internet Grant Scam Website
Watch out for any site and/or any customer service phone rep that:
- tells you they will need money up front, even if it’s only $3.95, before they can offer you any information, assistance, supplies, materials, equipment, or insider’s tips to the fast track
- guarantees you that you’ll get the grant you want, not lose your house, get completely out of debt, make millions with your home-based business, etc.
- requires your credit card number, social security number, or bank account number to get you started
- needs you to make an investment in the company
- tells you that you have to make a decision quickly because your opportunity is about to expire or be offered to someone else
How to Find a Legitimate Government Grant Site: Look for .gov
- http://www07.grants.gov/applicants/applicants.jsp: the real government grants site, where you can find FREE listings of all available federal grants. You may have to register to apply for a grant, but registration won’t cost you anything. NOTE: You can’t get grants for college or personal expenses at this site. If you’re looking for an education grant for college, go to…
- http://www.fafsa.ed.gov: the real federal government Department of Education website where you can apply for an education grant by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Filing a FAFSA is FREE — it costs you nothing to apply for federal student aid and federal education grants. You’ll need to file a FAFSA for ALL federal and most private education grants and scholarships.
- https://studentaid2.ed.gov/getmoney/scholarship/v3browse.asp: a huge school and private organization scholarship database maintained by the Department of Education.
How to Recognize an Internet Grant Scam Website: Do Your Homework
Don’t accept an Internet site’s flashy promises and lures of exclusive offers and information at face value. Do some investigation and remember that no legitimate website will ever charge you for information available for free on a federal or state government site.