BBB Alert: Coronavirus Stimulus Check and Grant Scams on the Rise

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Better Business Bureau serving Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky is warning that scammers are taking advantage of news coverage for the proposed federal stimulus package that was announced last week. The package, among other policy items, includes sending every American a check to offset lost income from the coronavirus crisis.

"Watch out for phony government grants that ask for personal and banking information," says Robyn Householder, President and CEO, BBB Middle TN and Southern KY. "BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of people contacted through text message, social media posts and messages, and phone calls referencing a 1,000 dollar check."

Householder says that, like any other scam, this has many variations. However, scammers are generally trying to do two things. They are trying to get personal information like banking details, or they are trying to get you to download malware on your computer.

For example, one variation is a Facebook post telling seniors about a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link leads to a website claiming to be a government agency called the "U.S. Emergency Grants Federation" (not a real thing). The site requests your Social Security number under the guise of needing to verify your eligibility. In other versions, scammers claim that you can get additional money - up to $150K in one case - or even receive your funds immediately. All you need to do is share personal details and pay a small "processing fee."
BBB Middle TN and Southern KY provide this list of Tips to Spot a COVID-19 Grant Scam:
  • Remember, government agencies do not directly communicate through social media avenues like Facebook. So, be wary of unsolicited messages.
  • Do not pay any money for a "free" government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is Grants.gov.
  • Check for look-alikes. Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you've heard from is legitimate.
  • Don't assume an offer in a social media message is from a real friend. It's easier for scammers to impersonate real people on social media. Call your friend to verify it was they contacted you (and share this Scam Alert with them if they are spreading false information).
Read more about government grant scams in this BBB tip. For more information about scams in the wake of coronavirus, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.
You can find the official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies at this link.
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Better Business Bureau, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Murfreesboro news, Price gouging, scam
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