Millions of consumers are victimized each year by scams, large and small. The remarkable thing about these criminal schemes is their longevity. They have been around, it seems, forever.
Take the government grant scam, for example. In this scam a caller pretends to be from the government, telling the victim they are receiving a grant of several thousand dollars, even though they never applied for it. In March, Andrea, of Wedowee, Ala., got such a call.
"I received a call, the caller ID said Washington, DC," Angela wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "A man with a heavy foreign accent said I was selected to receive a $10,000 government grant. I asked why. He preceded to tell me because I file my taxes on time, pay my taxes on time and have excellent credit, therefore I am eligible for the grant."
Andrea did not follow the man's directions. She had heard about how these schemes operated and this one fit the scenario to a T, right down to the man with the foreign accent. But her encounter wasn't over. She was about to be introduced to a new wrinkle in the government grant scam.
The Facebook angle
"I had a friend request on Facebook by someone in my community," Andrea writes. "I accepted the request and about 30 minutes later she said hi and ask how I doing. I replied that I was fine and asked how she was. She said she was happy and asked if I've heard the good news. I asked, 'What good news?' She said about the government grant money. I immediately blocked it and unfriended that person."
But we've seen accounts of others being stung by this update to the government grant scam. If Andrea had taken the bait, her "friend" would have told her how to claim the grant -- by texting a certain number.
If she had, she would have been told that the government was prepared to give her $50,000 -- no strings attached, mind you -- but she would have to pay $500 to receive the grant.
Before she could respond, however, her Facebook friend would have contacted her again, warning her that it was all a scam. The real way to get her government grant was to call this phone number. If she had done so, she would learn that she was still going to get the $50,000, but it was only going to cost her $330.
Ingenious and diabolical
This new wrinkle to an old scam makes it all the more dangerous. Warning the victim she is about to be scammed, then scamming her, is actually ingenious, as well as diabolical. The fact that the information is coming from a Facebook "friend" makes it all the more credible in the manipulated eyes of the victim.
In the end, however, victims usually fall for these scams because they are desperate to believe. The scammers skillfully persuade them to suspend disbelief and act against their better judgment.
Trust us, the government doesn't just give away money. Obtaining any kind of grant involves hours of paperwork and a persuasive presentation.
If you have not applied for a grant, there is no way on earth that you are receiving one.
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