"Free Money" from the Government: Variations on a Scheme

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"There is currently money available NOW right here in your area, to help pay your bills."

"NO lines, NO waiting, NO credit needed. This is YOUR money and will be sent back to the federal government if not used in your area."

Federal officials, consumer advocates, and businesses are hearing from people who have responded to ads, websites, phone calls, text messages, and visits from salespeople who claim the federal government will pay their bills – for everything from utilities, cable, and cell phones to their mortgages, student loans, and insurance premiums. The salespeople are scam artists. There is no federal bank account set up to pay your bills.

The FTC and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, say these cons are pros who may use half-truths to draw people in: The federal government has public assistance programs to help people in need. But this so-called program is a fraud.

If you respond to the scam artist's come-on, they'll charge you a processing fee and ask you for your personal information, which may include your name, Social Security number (SSN), credit card number, debit card number or other personal information. In exchange, they will give you instructions on how to use bank account and routing numbers to pay your bills online, or print checks so you can make your payments in person or by mail.

At first, you may think your bills have been paid. It's not until the payment is rejected, and you're notified that you still owe the money, that the scam is revealed. At that point, you may owe late or penalty fees to the company you thought you were paying as well as possibly owing fees to your bank for returned or rejected payments. The damage doesn't stop there: Not only do you still owe the money, but you're out the "fee" you paid the scam artist, you're at risk for identity theft, and you could be fined or even arrested for passing bad checks or trying to use a bank account that doesn't belong to you.

If you see a pitch for this scam, share it with your local police department, Better Business Bureau, state Attorney General's office, and the FTC. If you followed the scammer's instructions, contact your creditors immediately. It's also a good idea to review your credit report, which you can do every twelve months for free. To order a free copy of your report, call 1-877-322-8228 or visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted; accounts you didn't open; and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check that information like your SSN, address(es), and name or initials are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed.

The Facts About Getting Government Assistance

  • The government provides help through benefit programs for job training, nutritional assistance, education, and health care, among other needs.
  • To get government assistance, you must apply. Each program has specific eligibility requirements.
    You shouldn't have to pay a fee to apply for a government assistance program.
  • Not all government assistance programs provide cash payments. Assistance programs that provide payments may have conditions and limitations.

For More Information

For information about federally-funded benefit and assistance programs, visit Benefits.gov. If you don't have access to the internet, call USA.gov's National Contact Center at 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 pm Eastern Time, to speak to an information specialist.

Tagged with: debt, government, loan, scam
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

Need help on paying off bills, a car so I don't have to walk to work, down payment on a house so I can get off wel-fare

I need help I really don't know what to said but life for took a turn for 6yrs I tryed getting help form family but they turn they backs and lied to me and the government just looked over me. I don't have nowhere to stay but in my truck and not able to pay my bills. I got a job but 339$ just get me by. To many people's am just a nobodly. My credit is no good trying to help others in the pass.Now I need help

You know that same thing happened to me to first I got a call from some person then they told me to call this number they claim that I got $9,200 and they want me to pay for iTune card and I say yeah sure whatever but I was it going to fall for it and it looked like it was going to rain so I told God if it was a scam rain if it isn't then don't rain and next thing I knew it rained it was a scam saying I knew something like that was too good to be true so beware if you see any number that has 202 and they offer you something just hang up the phone

Just got the sane call today from a 206 phone number. They said I was randomly selected to receive a government grant $9,200. I just have to had to wire them through moneygram at a Wal-Mart a 100% refundable cost of $250 Do register my name on the government's grants list. I can't believe they actually think people are really that stupid... wow

Great

i need help to pay my rent

Why are there federal accounts with my name on it?

I have been getting phone calls from 202 area code consistently. usually I don't answer these calls. but yesterday I did answer and the gentleman started talking I asked him why he was still calling me after I have repeatedly asked to be taken off their call list he asked me why he was a foreigner of course he said that I was chosen to receive 7000 from the u.s. government because I haven't filed for bankruptcy and I am like oh yeah ok well how exactly am I going to be receiving this so called money he told me either western union or money gram. he gave me a number and told me to call a 646 new York area code number and I did another man answered again foreign and he gave me a tracking number but said that it would not be active until I bought an activation card from western union store. I am leery for sure but this honestly doesn't seem like a scam as they have not asked me for any personal info they already had my name n birthday and zip code. again haven't asked me for any account info or ss number info and said I don't pay any amount of money to them at all only to the western union store to purchase the activation card to receive the 7000$ because it's so much money....so has anyone else experienced this? tried this to see exactly what happens??? HELP PLEASE

This is most likely a scam. It's best not to call back.

You can report your experience to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. We appreciate your blog comment because it helps warn other people about this scam, but it’s not a formal complaint. The details in this comment are great for a formal complaint. Watch this video to learn more about how to report a scam and why it matters.

You also might be interested in reading this FTC post, A Western Union update.

Confused badly, PLEASE DON'T spend that money. $7000 may seem like a lot of money to you right now, but so is 200 or 250, whatever they said you had to get. Then, they get their hands inn that money and they're gone. They call ne every day. It's almost wort it to me to get scanned so they'll stop calling me. Whatever you do, don't give then money. Western union doesn't charge Tyne receiver of money anything, there is a few for sending it, but it's a fixed fee, according to how much you send and is NEVER that much. I really hope you haven't fine it. They told me I was getting $9000. When I said Western union doesn't don that, he said I wasn't eligible anymore, haha. So much for my "reward" for paying my taxes on time. They'll be punished for this, in this life or the need l next.

I received a call today from a 202 number telling me I was chosen to receive $9,000 in grant money that I don't have to pay back. the had my name, age, phone number. they asked how I would like to receive my money. Then gave me a call back number (another 202 number) with a money approval ID number. So out of curiosity I called. I'm a single mom and recently due to a very sick child that just spent 4 months in the hospital. my job went away so i am unemployed and could the money. The woman I spoke with proceed to tell me that I would have to pay $250 to a bank to verify I say who I am, but I would get that money back so I would actually receive $9,2050 at any western union of my choice. I told them if I had $250 I could pay my electric bill that's due in a couple days. I just laughed. Then the lady tells me to keep the information I was given and when you have the $250 call her back. She gave me a name and an ID# so In could reach her, But I wasn't giving her the money but the bank. I got off the phone and laughed and thought how stupid do you think I am. They are getting smarter. Be careful and be aware.

Definately a scam.. i recently signed up for rasmussen college pheonix university and sianna hieghts and now my info is vulnerable somehow. I had a 202 number call me for 2 weeks since applying for school again i finally answer they tell me its the government grant dperatment and that i have been selected among 1500 others to receive a free governemtn personal grant to spend how ever i choose. he Had to me coach me on what to tell the next person that he would transfer me over to and i repeated the answers we discussed and it was coincidentally all questions he would ask related to goin back to school. After we finished the call and he convinced me i might have some grant coming he said the grant department would call me back with information and how to access my free grant money. They called today and gave me a grant id number to pass to the official i was suppose to call at another 202 number lol. He had me on hold for 15 minutes till i got impatient started to rant wondering if he was triggering a nuke code or somethin. I told him i find it hard to believe the government want to give anyone a free grant randomly and he told me that i could end the call if wish and hed cancel payment request and i said thats fine and hung up. These people already knew my address dob name city and state and zip. the only information i gave was my email that they didnt already so call verify in the first call days prior. They where all foreign middle eastern poor english could barely pronounce the city and state. never asked for bank info or ss# basically my email and i incidentally gave him my primary cell number when i thaught this might be real cause he already had my info. i was just waiting for social question or bank info and it would have ended sooner. I still sit here thinkin that maybe i could be that lucky someday lol. the first guy told me 7500 and the second guy and girl said 9000. the senoir account officail was reached at 2015499648, the original calls came from 2024123523, and other kept calling too unavailabel i answer em when my wfies at work cause sometime her workplace line shows unavailable. hope this help to resolve it for some who might still question the authenticity of the scam or grant your being offerd and new tactics they may deploy when calling. i spoke with FSA and my entrance counselor they all said avoid the call its most likey a scam. Government grant arent handed direct to the recipient usully theres another program or branch the issues the checks from a bank

I just got a call from the same 202 number. The female on the other end told me I had a check of $9000. She didn't get my info but she gave me her name. Her name is Catherine Rodgers. I hope this was helpful in getting this person and prosecute her to the full extent of the law.

I received some calls from phones with área code 360. They told me to activate a card for 250 in a Wal-Mart Store to receive 9,000 from Government.

I just got a call from a 202 area code saying that they had $9250.00. All I had to do was go to Wal-Mart and pay $250.00 for a registration form. Then call them back with the numbers on it so that I would be registered with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Such a scam!!!!

I had a number 202 call me today too and said that I had a grant for $9,000 and he told me to go to CVS and get the money so I played along and say I'm going to CVS tomorrow he told me to call him back but I know it was a scam all alone he asked me for my name and he just said do I live in Georgia it's your area code is 30315 and he told me I would not have to pay back so I asked him was he with the scale he said no but I know he was lying so I called the number back what number was disconnected and the other number the man answer the phone I did not say the company name he act like he did not know what I was talking about so after he picked up the phone on I ask him can I use a prepaid card and he said yes but you have to still go to CVS and get the money first and then transfer it myself on a card so if you are not asking why did you not transfer the money to a prepaid card scam all the way please be careful

if there is such thing for free money from the gov then i need some help.i'm an xnavy vet.

I received a called today from a 813 are code number saying I'm eligible for a government grant of $9,200.00 because I have paid my bills and taxes on time and I have never filed for bankruptcy, all I needed to do was call 208-550-8520 and give them my activation code TM249 (witch I did, not because I was going to do it, since I had already read all this comments I just wanted to see what they requested of me) and a guy answered and repeated the same thing as to why me an another 16,000 citizens have been granted this once in a life time opportunity all he wanted me to do was go to a convenient store or gas station while on the phone with him to do my registration online because I couldn't go to the Federal Reserve Bank, New York Branch where my money had been transferred, I keep asking why did I had to go to the store if the registration was online, he got aggravated and started screaming that I was questioning him, to witch I replied why are you screaming I just don't understand why I have to go to a dollar store and not a bank, and he lost it he started calling me names and cursing to the top of his lungs and I hung up

Same thing just happened to me. A 202 number just called me, said I need to go to Walmart and buy a card and that I will receive the money I spend back. They said I was randomly selected for a 9000 grant. And when I get to the parking lot to call them back, and they will tell me what card to get.. yea.. ok.

Is putting information here considered the same as reporting it? If not, where/how can I report?
Got call from 202-111-2222. Told me $5000 grant for me from US Government. Asked some useless questions, I went along with it to see what they're doing. Gave me a code and number to call to confirm, WL3315, 347-754-4295. Didn't call it.

Had same thing happen to me today called them back and told them ma'am I would like to decline my grant due to I dont appreciate scams. Its people like you who give non-americans a horrible name.

I was contacted by an acquaintance through Facebook. She claimed she received cash for $80 thousand dollars from a grant. She suggested that I try to see if I will get any money. Without question I contacted the number she gave me the next day. Through text, I apparently was approved for a grant. The amount, well I get to choose. I found that odd. The catch was that I had to pay$2,500.00 to receive $200,000.00. Thats when I realized that this was a scam. It had to be a scam. The company that was trying to scam me out of what little money I had. The company was called First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation Program (FGMC) 408-695-1291. They were quite anxious to get the fee and would leave me alone. I had to block the number and the acquaintance.

It's possible that someone hacked into your acquaintance's account, and sent spam from her account. She may not know that you got the message from her.

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