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BBB Tip of the Week: Scam phone calls

Sun., Sept. 9, 2012

  The scam phone call most often reported to the BBB is that of the bogus grant.

It goes like this: “Hi, you’ve won a government grant. All you have to do is donate $99 to the charity of your choice by wiring us the money, and we’ll send you a check for $5,000.”

  Confused yet?

  You should be. It’s fake. Yes, there are grant-writing professionals, and they do not work for free. But hiring one does not guarantee you a grant. It can’t. According to an SFCC class I audited a few years ago, a top-notch grant writer will achieve success about 10 percent of the time. And you would never pay the funder to guarantee that you got the grant. That smells like jail time.

  Let’s take a quiz: Which of these bullet points is real, and which are scams?

• You “win” a grant you didn’t apply for.

• They cold call to tell you this.

• The grant is “from Washington, D.C” or “a government grant agency.”

• The grant’s for you because you paid your taxes, have financial needs, or “because we know your son is in the military.”

• After weeks of work, the Gates Foundation has chosen your application from 499 others to improve educational opportunities for high school dropouts in King County, Wash.

• The funder chooses you because your organization performs a social good, like rehabilitating gang members or providing clean water to tornado-affected areas.

• The under’s mission and your organization’s mission match.

  Answers: Only the bottom three are legitimate.

In reality, funders give grants so that you can help them fulfill their mission – not so they can help you take care of your needs. Charities help individuals take care of their needs, but not by giving them grants. Charities receive grants so they can help individuals.

  More info or to report scams: Visit the BBB website at Call (509)455-4200 or (800) 356-1007. Or sign up to receive our Scam Alerts at

Holly Doering, BBB editor

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