Vancouver, BC – BBB serving Mainland BC is reminding the public about a Facebook scam targeting Canadians. The scam offers thousands upon thousands in grant money from the United States Internal Revenue Service. That by itself should be a red flag.
Crooks hack your friends Facebook account and start a conversation with you posing as your friend. They tell you about this wonderful grant available through the IRS that you can access. You’re directed to certain links where all of your personal information is input. You’re easily approved for a grant, but lo and behold, they require a ‘clearance fee’ up front to release the funds.
“I received a call from a woman in Kelowna who was promised 100 thousand in grant money from the IRS. She lost 13 hundred dollars to this scam before she decided to call us,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “I just want everyone, students, in particular, to be aware that the words ‘grant’ and ‘scholarship’ are easily thrown around by scammers.”
The victim claims she sent the first 13 hundred to a TD account in Terrace, BC. Because the money was sent willingly and was transferred from the TD account the same day, there is little the bank can do. According to the Vancouver Police, this is fairly normal activity in scams like these.
“These accounts are often held by innocent third parties who think they are working for someone by clearing or processing international payments,” says Sgt. Duane van Beek of the VPD Financial Crime Unit. “They forward the money less a percentage on to someone in the US or overseas.”
At this point, it’s unclear if that was the case. After sending the first 13 hundred the scammer demanded a further 16 hundred as her grant was allegedly stuck at the border. She refused and tells BBB she was threatened if she did not pay the extra sum.
BBB suggests the following tips to avoid grant and scholarship scams:
• Don’t give out your bank account information to strangers. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account.
• Be careful with friend requests from strangers. Sure we all want to have new friends, but try to keep your social networking friends to folks you have a real-world connection to.
• Don’t blindly trust your current Facebook friends. If the message seems out-of-character their account may have been hacked or cloned. Contact them offline.
• Application Fees – Legitimate scholarship foundations do not charge an application fee, so be wary of scholarships that do. Even if the fee is minimal, or if the foundation claims the fee is to limit the number of applicants.
• Guaranteed Scholarships – Legitimate scholarship services have no control over who the scholarship foundation chooses to win the grant. Avoid the ones that claim you are guaranteed to receive money.
• Solicitations – A red flag should go off if you have been told that you have been selected for a scholarship that you have never applied for. This is a sign of a scam.
• Eligibility – Avoid services that claim every student is eligible to receive the scholarship. Legitimate foundations look for students that meet their requirements, whether they be the student’s GPA, career interests, athletic involvement or volunteer work.
• IRS Government Grants – While such grants exist, it is suspect to think that anyone other than US citizens or residents would be eligible.
If you have any concerns that you have been scammed there are several avenues to report it:
• Report it to your local authorities (Municipal Police/RCMP)
• Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Toll-free: 1-888-495-8501
• Contact the Competition Bureau of Canada Toll-free: 1-800-348-5358
• Contact www.bbb.org/mbc 1-604-682-2711