‘It makes you angry’: Action 9 warns that federal grant scam is back

CONCORD, N.C. — A Concord woman wants to warn others about a scam that offers thousands in government grant money but isn’t real.

Valarie Steele contacted Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke after someone texted her saying that the federal government was going to give her a grant for $13,900 to use on anything she wanted.

She said the scammer wanted her personal information, including her photo, as well as a delivery fee of $200.

“There’s no fee for a grant if somebody’s giving you money, so that made me suspicious and it made me contact you,” she told Stoogenke.

The con artist also asked her to pay the delivery fee using bitcoin or a gift card, which the government would not do and was a red flag for Steele.

“And I am on a fixed income so I most definitely couldn’t let myself fall for it,” she said.

Another red flag for Steele was that the message was from someone named “Mr Mike,” with no official title included.

“The ‘Mr Mike’ with nothing else kind of bothered me,” she said. “It makes you angry. It makes you feel sad for the person that’s scamming somebody that’s really in need and don’t have, especially with the pandemic going on. Everybody’s hurting now.”

Stoogenke says this particular scam has been around for years and that he’s warned people about it before, but it appears to be happening again this year.

The Federal Trade Commission says it’s counted more than 600 reports of the scam across the country this year. The agency says more than $1.4 million has been lost, with the average victim losing more than $500.

Stoogenke says these are the red flags you should watch out for:

  • The government won’t contact you out of the blue to offer you a grant, especially if you didn’t apply for one.
  • Always be suspicious if you have to pay money to get money, especially using gift cards.
  • Check the email address: a government email would end in .gov.
  • Look for spelling or punctuation mistakes.

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