Scam Alert!

Published 10:14 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016

COLERAIN – A Bertie County resident here came close to being separated from his hard-earned money last week.

“I feel like a dummy for even thinking about almost falling for this scam, but I wanted to tell you my story so that others will not become a victim,” said the man who opted not to have his name published.

The scam began with a simple message he received on his Facebook page.

“I received a request from a person I know that they wanted to be friends on Facebook,” he stated. “I found that a bit odd since this person and I were already Facebook friends, but I figured they had maybe set up a new Facebook page or a new account, so I accepted the request.”

A short time later, the man began receiving messages through Facebook from his “friend.”

“At first it was simple stuff like, hey, how are you and what have you been up to,” he reported. “Then they messaged me to say had found out some information about the Obama administration setting aside $840 billion in government grants and ordinary folks like me could apply for these grants. They went as far as to tell me they had received a $150,000 grant that did not have to be paid back.”

He was then instructed to look up a man by the name of James Newman on Facebook and send him a friend request.

“Once I was on his page, I was instructed to go to a (website) link that supposedly is where you apply for a government grant,” said the local man. “That link looked like the real deal. Then you send a message to Mr. Newman, saying that part had been done. After that, he (Newman) sends you an electronic form to fill out, which asks for a lot of personal information, to include your driver’s license number, and how much grant money would you like to receive.”

The local man filled out the form, but had second thoughts about supplying his driver’s license number and returned it without that particular information.

“I then received a message from Mr. Newman, telling me I’ve been approved for the $150,000 grant. However, in order to receive that money, I had to pay a 10 percent ($15,000) fee and was directed to deposit that into a Bank of America account,” he explained. “That’s when all the red flags went up for me.”

The local man said he hastily contacted the Facebook colleague from whom he had received the original friend’s request.

“They told me their Facebook account had been hacked and they were locked out of Facebook,” he noted.

“When Mr. Newman got back in touch with me, asking me about the 10 percent deposit, I told him to leave me alone,” he continued. “When he asked me what was wrong, I told him about my real friend on Facebook and that he (Newman) had lied to me and if he didn’t leave me alone I was going to report this to the FBI.

“Of course I haven’t heard from Mr. Newman again since I confronted him about this scam,” the local man added.

“I almost fell for this….I should have known better because there’s no such thing as easy money and I wanted to warn others of this scam,” he concluded.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, “money for nothing” grant offers usually are scams, whether you see them in a newspaper, national magazine, on Facebook or hear about them on the phone.

Some scam artists advertise “free grants” in the classifieds, inviting readers to call a toll-free number for more information. Others are more bold: they call you out of the blue or can pose as a legitimate friend on Facebook. They claim legitimacy using an official-sounding name like the “Federal Grants Administration.” They may ask you some basic questions to determine if you “qualify” to receive a grant.

Grant scammers will typically ask for a one-time “processing fee.” You will never see the grant they promise and they will disappear with your money.

The FTC says following a few basic rules can keep consumers from losing money to these “government grant” scams:

Don’t give out your bank account information or any personal information to anyone you don’t know.

Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it isn’t really free. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is

Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch — or not.

If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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