Several readers have reported grant scams. Remember this: Grants are not like lotteries. You don’t win them; you must apply for them.
This scam was reported by one of our loyal readers who said a friend of hers “notified” her that she had just won $250,000, delivered right to her doorstep. The notification came by way of Messenger (hacked) through Facebook.
This one involves the Lions Club Grant Programs. While the Lions Club does offer a number of legitimate grant programs, if you didn’t apply for a grant, you won’t be notified.
In this particular case, once you reply to your “friend,” the scammer tries to convince you that if your name shows up in a database you could win a grant. Once they verify your name, they will try to weasel personal information from you, including your mother’s maiden name (now that’s bold!). Then you get to “kindly” choose your winning amount so the funds can be sent via FedEx to you right away.
Here’s the catch: How much money you would like to “win” will determine the fee you will be asked to pay. Want to win $1 million? It will only cost you a $10,000 clearance fee.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Of course, our reader’s friend did not send her the notice because her account was hacked.
If you get any odd or unusual messages like this one on Facebook Messenger, please recognize it for the scam that it is and avoid it.
CONGRESS CONFRONTS ROBOCALLERS: After years of complaining, it appears that consumers just might get some relief from robocalls.
Finally, Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: The spam robocall situation has gotten entirely out of hand.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. John Thurne, R-S.D. introduced a bill on Nov. 16 that aims for stiffer penalties on illegal robocalls and to stop them before they reach our phones.
The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act includes a provision to raise the penalty for robocalls from $1,500 per call to up to $10,000 per call. It allows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action on illegal robocalls up to three years after the calls are placed, instead of the current one year.
For many of us highly annoyed by robocalls, the bill would also force phone service providers to use call authentication that filters out illegitimate calls before they go through to consumers. One App (YouMail) estimated that 5.1 billion robocalls made it to U.S. phones just last month.
To provide much-needed relief from robocall abuse, the bill is intended to authenticate calls, block them and use enforcement against those who violate the law by continuing to bombard us with these nuisances. Stay tuned on this one. The current laws haven’t done much to stop the situation.
TIMESHARE TRAVAILS: One of our readers warned us to steer clear of a certain group if you have a timeshare to sell. She paid $3,000 to have this group sell her timeshare. Instead, she still owns the timeshare and they came back for more money.
If you have a timeshare to sell, check out Timeshare Users Group at: www.tug2.com
They give you the lowdown on timeshares.
LONG-LOST HEIR? One of our readers recently received a letter from Mr. David Louis, Solicitor from London, that was impersonally addressed to Mutual Partner. Mr. Louis informed the recipient that he represents Robert Fitzpatrick, who died on Oct. 31, 1999, when the Boeing Egypt Air Flight 990 plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
According to the letter, Mr. Fitzpatrick left vital documents with the solicitor related to a deposit account with an $11 million balance. All efforts to locate any heirs have proved unsuccessful, which is why the solicitor has contacted the recipient.
The lawyer needs help to claim the money left behind before it gets confiscated or declared unclaimed by the security company where this huge deposit supposedly exists. Somehow, although not clear, the recipient is to pass himself or herself off as an heir. The arrangement is for the recipient to get 40 percent while the solicitor gets 50 percent and 10 percent goes to expenses. By my math, that’s a $4.4 million payday.
Now let’s check this out: An internet search revealed that indeed a Boeing Egypt Air Flight 990 crashed on Oct. 31, 1999, in the Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, there actually was a Mr. Robert Fitzpatrick on that flight who died in the crash. So far, so good (unless you’re Mr. Fitzpatrick).
But here’s where things break down: A search revealed Mr. Fitzpatrick was from New York (so why the London lawyer?) and it turns out his wife died in the crash, too. They left behind four children and four grandchildren. Gee whiz, this scammer didn’t look too hard for the next of kin.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that this letter is flagged as a scam since it’s been around a few years under many variations.
Even if Mr. Fitzpatrick hadn’t left behind heirs, this begs the question: Are you his long-lost heir? I’m not a lawyer, but when someone dies without legal heirs, once their property is left unclaimed for some period of time (usually three to five years, depending on state law), the financial institution is required to escheat the funds to the state where the account is held. This means the likelihood of a 1999 unclaimed property scheme actually being valid is less likely than winning the lottery, and most of us know those odds.
Think you might be a long-lost heir? Check out this website: https://www.unclaimed.org/
I found out my dad left behind $12. If I actually claim it, I just might have enough left over for a cup of coffee.
REMEMBER: I’m on your side.
If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email or give me a call. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. You can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 208-274-4458. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.