Recently, there has been an increase in what we refer to as a “Facebook Grant Scam”.
These scams can vary in detail, but all come down to a very similar process, with some words interchanged, where a “friend” on Facebook tells you about a large grant that you qualify for – sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – and all you need to do is send in a processing fee.
Don’t be fooled. This is a scam.
We’ll explain the scam in a bit more detail below, but we like to cut to the chase.
You should NEVER purchase gift cards as a means of payment for a grant, service, or otherwise. If someone is asking you to purchase gift cards as a means of payment, you are dealing with a criminal and should immediately tell your family, friends, and a government authority such as the FTC via this website.
What is the Facebook Grant Scam?
This is just a variation of myriad of finance scams that we are being targeted with on a regular basis. The goal of the scammer is to trick you into believing there is free money or some sort of prize at the end of the line – all you need to do is pay a registration fee, processing fee, or prepay your taxes up front in order to receive the large payment at the end.
For the Facebook Grant Scam, the criminal will often hack a person’s Facebook account, taking control of their Facebook Messenger account and list of friends. If they aren’t actually hacking the account, they may create a similar account to your friend’s, downloading their photos and creating a lookalike variation.
Now that the criminal has this basic level of trust – your friend’s name and profile photo – they will begin sending messages to their entire list of friends.
You may receive something that states “Hey John (insert your name here). I recently got a grant from the XYZ Foundation for $50,000. It only took a couple of weeks to come through and I don’t have to pay it back. Do you want information on how I did this?”
It seems to good to be true. This is the first sign of a scam.
Assuming you don’t catch this and follow through with the criminal, they may send you a phone number or to a website. This is all part of the scam.
You may fill out some simple paperwork or answer a few questions. They will then tell you that you qualify for the grant, but in order to receive it, you must pay the processing fee.
Oddly, they will often say that the best way to do this is to go to the local Walmart or similar store and purchase a pair of $500 gift cards. They’ll have you scratch the secret information off of the back and send them a photo as this will be your payment.
You will never hear from them again, but they will spend that gift card money immediately.
Here is an example of that happening:
How To Avoid a Facebook Grant Scam
There are a couple of major warning signs to look out for with a Facebook Grant Scam.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If something seems too good to be true, don’t blindly believe it. If someone messages you with information on how you can get a whole lot of money and never need to pay it back, it should strike you as odd. Share this information with your friends or family and see what they think before you make a move. Ask your friend who sent the message via text message or a phone call if they could explain what they are telling you on Facebook. Odds are, they will say, “huh? I never messaged you on Facebook,” and you’ll then know that they were hacked.
A major key in staying safe from any scam, and for certain these Facebook grant scams, is to stay connected with your family and friends. There is power in numbers and there is no shame in asking someone for help identifying an opportunity.
No Government Agency Will Transact Via Facebook
Any legitimate agency, be it government or otherwise, is going to be conducting business over Facebook. If we’re talking about a grant that would allot you tens of thousands of dollars, you will likely need to fill out boatloads of paperwork and go into a governmental office to file the forms.
No Agency Will Make You Pay Up Front
Whether we’re talking about winning a sweepstakes and being asked to pay taxes before the payout or applying for a grant and being asked for $1,000 up front, this simply isn’t the way that these businesses work. Sure, there might be a very low payment for a grant application, maybe $40, but never anything overly expensive.
Nobody Besides Scammers Get Paid With Gift Cards
If anyone ever tells you that gift cards are how they would like to be paid, they are criminals. No business, governmental agency, sweepstakes company, or otherwise will want to be paid with gift cards or photos of gift cards. That simply isn’t how business works. If you are ever told to purchase gift cards as a means of payment, stop in your tracks and report it to the authorities as you are being targeted with a Facebook grant scam.