The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about a recent phone scam that successfully stole the personal identity information of what could be hundreds of victims.
Scammer’s called victims across the nation using a phone number belonging to a Southwest Florida business, telling the individual they they may qualify for bogus government grants. The business has received 766 calls from victims inquiring as to why money promised to them was not deposited into their bank account, despite the company having no connection to government grants. According to the LCSO, many callers admitted to sharing personal banking information with the scammers believing that the would be receiving payments from the government.
None of the victims so far has been local, but deputies still warn residents to be wary of unsolicited offers for Pell grants or “money for nothing” grants in exchange for a processing fee. Online ads or phone solicitation can often be an avenue for these types of scams.
Law enforcement suggest the following safety tips when dealing with a possible “grant scam”.
- Do not trust your caller ID. Scammers use internet technology to fool you by creating the name of a familiar government agency and a fraudulent phone number. Although it may look like a trusted source is calling you, it could actually be a con artist trying to rip you off from anywhere in the world.
- Never give out your personal identifying information. To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, keep your bank account information, social security number or credit card numbers confidential.
- Do not pay money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim something that is free, it isn’t really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant you have already been awarded. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is grant.gov.
Call the Sheriff’s Office fraud line at 258-3292 if you have a received a call offering a government grant and have questions about the legitimacy of the offer.
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