Can You Get Free Government Grants?
Yes, under very carefully controlled circumstances. You qualify for financial aid as a college student, for example, or you are a business owner trying to reach out to specific targeted groups.
The US Government does NOT give grants to little people like you and me to live our daily lives. It also does not give money to start a business, in direct contradiction to many of the “government grant” claims out there. (To get free money with no strings attached you have to be a huge investment bank with high-paid lobbyists. But I digress.)
But don’t take my word for it. Here it is from the maw of the beast:
But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says that “money for nothing” grant offers usually are scams, whether you see them in your local paper or a national magazine, or hear about them on the phone.
Some Web sites out there will holler at you that government grants are widely available and easy to get. They even often claim that the government gives grants for starting businesses. This is a direct lie, according to the federal Small Business Administration:
Please Note that the U.S. Small Business Administration does not offer grants to start or expand small businesses, though it does offer a wide variety of loan programs. While the SBA does offer some grant programs, these are generally designed to expand and enhance organizations that provide small business management, technical, or financial assistance. These grants generally support non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions, and state and local governments.
Grant Every Day? Um…no
Enter the strange case of governmentgrantsearch.com. That’s the site that Kathryn, the reader from my last post on grants, tangled with and lost to the tune of $100+.
Why “strange case?” Because the site has some good information. The problem is the crap product it promotes: the “Grant Every Day” program. It advertises a “free” CD (+ shipping and handling) with all the information you need to start getting government grants. You can get your first check in as little as one week!
What the heck, right? Three bucks for info. I can handle that. But then I read the fine print and decided not to sign up. Holy Add-ons, Batman! Your “free” CD will cost you $90.89 if you are not careful. Every month.
Here is the fine print:
See the parts I bolded? Yeah, those are dollar amounts. Have you ever seen prices written out in words? I don’t think I ever have. In my humble opinion, there is only one reason to do it in the fine print: TO HIDE IT. The promoter knows you’ll scan the fine print, but won’t read it carefully. They don’t want to call attention to all the extras by putting $68.13 right there for you to catch.
And not only that, but these add-ons come completely out of the blue. NOWHERE does the page promoting the free CD mention that you are also signing up for a monthly paid membership (what for??) the “SBA Connection” (what the hell is that??), and “Kind Remind.”
This is deceptive, “gotcha” marketing at its worst. FREE CD! Only $2.95 shipping and handling! Then, hidden at the bottom of the page, lots of extra garbage and recurring charges.
But it gets worse. The Terms and Conditions state that the company can sell your information to whomever it wants, and that it can have its telemarketers call you, even if you have opted out of telemarketing:
By submitting personal information at the Website, you agree that such act constitutes an inquiry and/or application for purposes of the Amended Telemarketing Sales Rule (16 CFR §310 et seq.), as amended from time to time (the “Rule”). Notwithstanding that your telephone number may be listed at the Federal Trade Commission’s Do-Not-Call List, you give us the right to contact you via telemarketing in accordance with the Rule.
The Company may disclose, transfer, and sell Individual Information to entities affiliated with us at our discretion.
Rules of the Road for Government Grants
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) recommends the following guidelines if you’re interested in government grants:
- Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it isn’t really free. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded — or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is www.grants.gov.
- Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch — or not.
- Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
- Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit www.donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
- File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online at www.ftc.gov, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Sadly, for you and me, there’s no such thing as free money. Don’t fall for the free government grant claims.
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