BBB ALERT: Phony government scam using a national foundation’s name

MID-SOUTH — The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South is warning you about a scam involving the use of the “National Science Foundation” (NSF) name.

The BB has received a number of reports and calls about a specific version of a government grant.

So far, four of the 15 consumers have reported losing money, ranging from $850 to $15,000, a release said.

According to a release, those contacted received phone calls, text messages or social media messaging with an offer of a government grant funded by the NSF.

The scams target those who are “qualified” to receive funds but have to pay fees and/or taxes before they can receive their funds.

There is an actual government agency called the National Science Foundation. It funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering through grants, and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout The United States, a release said.

According to Randy Hutchinson, BBB of the Mid-South president, NSF is not affiliated with these phony offers.

“NSF won’t reach out to individuals out of the blue with an offer of ‘free’ money,” Hutchinson added. “In fact, they won’t reach out to you at all – you have to submit a grant proposal. Scammers are hoping that consumers might tune into the name ‘National Science Foundation” since there’s been so much news surrounding science and COVID-19 lately.”

BBB warns consumers to watch out for these red flags of a phony grant scam:

  • If you’re contacted by a “friend” online about a free government grant, it’s likely a scam. Reach out to that friend through another means to determine if they really messaged you. Report the fake contact to the social media platform.
  • Don’t give out your personal or banking account information to anyone you don’t know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so they can steal the money in the account.
  • Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” grant, it isn’t really free.
  • Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean he is. This and other names used are fakes.
  • Remember that caller ID can be spoofed. There’s no way to know who is really on the end of that call that comes in to you. They could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • To reduce the number of telemarketing calls, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Crooks don’t care about the law and will still call you, but at least that will be a red flag the call is a scam.

If you suspect a scam, you can call the BBB at 901-759-1300 or visit their website.