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Friend 1: Guess what?! I received a call from the government that I won a grant!

Friend 2: Wow! Congratulations! What did you apply for?

Friend 1: I didn’t apply for any grant. They selected me! All I had to do is give them my bank account number and now I just wait for it to be deposited into my account.

Friend 2: That sounds like a scam to me!

Friend 2 is right. The FTC is warning consumers of yet another fake-government entity scam, this time involving the National Institute of Health (NIH). These scam callers are telling people they have been selected to receive a $14,000 grant from the NIH, but to receive it they must pay a fee through an iTunes or Green Dot card, or by giving their account number.

If you ever get a phone call from someone asking you to pay money, hang up the phone. The government does not award grants to citizens at random nor do government employees demand you give them personal or financial information. The NIH, like some other government entities, does award grants, but they’re only given to researchers who have applied for one and which are used for public purposes and not personal use.

How can you avoid falling for this scam?

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Let the call go to voicemail and determine whether the caller is legitimate.
  • If you do pick-up, be empowered and ask questions! Some scammers follow a script and are ready to respond to questions such as “how did I win an award I didn’t apply for” or “why do I need to pay a processing fee on a free grant?”
  • Never share your bank account number with someone you don’t know. The same goes for wiring money. If the caller tells you there is a nominal fee and you can pay by gift card or wire transfer, just hang up.
  • Report the call to our Office and to the FTC!

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

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