Government imposter scams cost consumers $445 million last year

Scammers offering access to grants for upfront fees
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 3:29 PM CDT
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InvestigateTV - Scammers are using the promise of federal grants to target unknowing consumers, and according to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, it cost consumers $445 million in 2021.

Aletta McGriggs was one of the many victims. The scam started when she said an old high school friend contacted her on Facebook. Only it wasn’t her friend, it was a scammer on a fake account trying to lure her in with the promise of a $30,000 government grant.

“I think it’s horrible actually. It’s beyond sad!” McGriggs said.

McGriggs said she felt something was off in her first conversation with the supposed grant representative, but she filled out the application anyway.

The scammer then asked for a $500 “case file” fee.”

So I asked him, okay, well that’s odd because you shouldn’t have to pay anything for a grant,” McGriggs said. “And he said, ‘This is a file, this is just a file to keep your case confidential and to yourself.”

She said she was then sent a copy of a “certificate” filled out with her name. Then came a request for more money, this time a $324 delivery fee.

“I ended up sending it and I borrowed it from my son,” McGriggs said. “That’s what really broke me.”

She said the delivery never came, and when she finally got in touch with the scammer, they asked for almost $4,000 more for taxes.

McGriggs said that’s when she knew she had been scammed.

Josh Planos, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations for the Better Business Bureau, said McGriggs isn’t alone. A 2020 BBB report showed more that 44% of Americans have encountered a government imposter scam.

“The digital age is certainly making it easier to scale your operation if you’re a scammer,” Planos said.

What can you do to protect yourself? Plano suggested looking up any agency making an offer and double checking to insure they are the same entity. He said doing due diligence up front can save you from playing clean up duty on the back.

The BBB regularly releases scam alerts. You can contact them online if you are wary of an offer. You can also report scams to their scam tracker tool to help prevent others from becoming victims.