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“Free grant” scam hits two local men

A “free government grant” scam has been increasingly targeting Western New Yorkers and just recently defrauded two local men of thousands of dollars.

In one instance, thieves stole $2,000 from an 85-year-old man in Jamestown. A letter from a company calling itself Resource Program said he was eligible for a grant from the government that would help him pay his bills and make home repairs. He sent $2,000, thinking it would go toward covering processing fees, but never heard back from the company.

Another man, in Buffalo, lost $1,000 after being told he had been granted a $10,000 federal “loyalty” grant for staying up to date on his bill payments.

The scam, which targets victims via phone, mail, text, e-mail and on social media, often asks for checking account information. Scammers say they will use it to deposit grant funds, but actually end up using it to drain money from the account.

The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York said there has been a spike in complaints about this type of scam, which also sometimes poses as a grant that helps pay education expenses. The BBB warns that real government agencies don’t ask for processing fees in association with grants. Also, scammers can disguise the information that is displayed on Caller ID devices to appear as though they are coming from Washington, D.C., or from legitimate agencies. Watch out for official-sounding government titles. If you’re going to check on a suspicious-sounding claim, look up the number for government agencies separately – do not use contact information provided by the solicitor.

For more information, visit Consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0113-government-grant-scams.

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