(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – As families prepare for the new school year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to beware of financial scams, including phony grant offers. Dozens of Ohioans have reported losing hundreds of dollars to grant scams in the past year.
“It’s a busy time of year for many families, and it’s important not to let your guard down,” Attorney General DeWine said. “A good rule of thumb is that if you have to pay money to receive a grant, a scholarship, or a job, it’s probably a scam, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
In the last 12 months, more than 60 Ohioans have filed complaints about grants (many of which are scams), and half of those consumers reported losing money. The average reported loss is about $1,000.
A typical grant scam begins with a phone call, seemingly from a 202 (Washington DC) area code. The caller says the consumer has won a government grant, but in order to receive the grant, the consumer must send $200 to $600, typically via wire transfer, money order, or prepaid card, to India or another country. Consumers who send money often are contacted again and asked to send more money. In reality, there is no grant and consumers who send payment likely will lose any money they send.
Consumers also should beware of identity theft and job scams during the back-to-school season. Identity theft occurs when someone’s personal information is used fraudulently, and clicking on certain links online or giving out personal information could put students at risk. Similarly, students who apply for jobs during the school year should understand that some job postings are scams. For example, “employers” who say they are out of the country and will pay the student to process funds or run errands for them are often scammers.
Ohioans can take the following steps to protect themselves:
Never pay to receive a grant, scholarship, or job.
Don’t trust your caller ID. The phone number may be “spoofed” — a technique where a caller masquerades as someone else by falsifying the number that appears on the recipient’s caller ID.
Remember that if you win a grant or sweepstakes you never applied for, it’s probably a scam.
Be careful where you click on the Internet. Clicking on certain links or attachments will download malicious software to your computer.
Guard your personal information. Don’t give out your Social Security number or bank account information to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Kate Hanson: 614-466-3840