By SARAH BRADBURY
Residents in Western Virginia are receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to represent the U.S. Government offering substantial grant funds to consumers with “clean credit ratings.” According to several consumers and stated in a Better Business Bureau (BBB) press release, the individuals making these phone calls have hard-to-understand, foreign accents, and ask for the consumer by name.
The callers claim the consumer is eligible for grant funds due to their clean credit rating and history of paying bills on time. One consumer was asked for her banking information in order to “deposit these funds into your checking account right away.” Another consumer was told a payment of $199.00 would be required to pay fees and taxes.
“The U.S. Government will never call and offer you a grant over the phone,” said Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of BBB serving Western Virginia. “Federal grants must be applied for using a formal application process, and are never offered in the form of unsolicited phone calls. This is just another phishing attempt to steal your personal information and money.”
Consumers reported the calls came from a (202) 706-3461 phone number. The number is a Washington, D.C. area code and is attached to a pre-paid cell phone, a communication method frequently used by scammers since they are difficult to trace and easily disposed of. They will often use area codes associated with the scam, in this case the federal government, in order to appear authentic.
BBB encourages citizens to be cautious of anyone offering something for “free” in exchange for personal information. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Wheeler. People are warned not provide any bank account information, Medicare numbers, Social Security numbers or any other personal information to unknown individuals over the phone.
According to Wheeler, the United States Government will never call and offer grant funds over the phone. Citizens are encouraged to be wary of any callers claiming to represent official government departments that offer money, prizes, or other reward in return for personal information, and also urged to check out the company’s BBB business review at bbb.org to see its BBB rating, complaint history and more.
For more advice on fighting fraud, visit bbb.org or contact the BBB serving Western Virginia at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.