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Valley woman scammed with fake government grants amid high inflation

Gift Cards
Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 13:07:43-04

PHOENIX — Free money, but it comes with a cost?

As people may struggle financially with high inflation, scammers are trying to cash in by offering fraudulent government grants.

For Mary, the offer came in the form of a Facebook message from a friend offering advice.

At the time, Mary didn't know her friend's account had been hacked.

The 'friend' suggested she apply for a government grant, reportedly offered by the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the World Health Organization.

"You had to tell them what type of grant you wanted... I said home repairs," Mary recalled, wanting to update her step-in showers to walk-ins to make life easier as she aged.

She was offered a $50,000 grant, but she needed to pay $1,000 to receive the funds.

It was a red flag for Mary.

"Everything I questioned they had an answer for, which I thought was coming from my friend," Mary said.

Trusting her friend, she drove to a local Walgreens to buy gift cards. She sent pictures of the cards and waited for her grant. On the day the delivery was scheduled, Mary received a text saying the FedEx truck had been in an accident.

Mary was then asked for more money, "they texted me back and said they needed $2,000 to keep this money that I was getting, this check, in a vault."

She didn't send the money.

Mary was able to reach her actual friend on the phone, who told Mary her Facebook account had been hacked. Mary realized - she'd been scammed.

Mary's reporting the scam to the FTC but says losing her self-confidence and trust in her own decision-making hurts more than losing the money.

Remember, if you're asked to pay with gift cards - it's a scam.

There is never a cost to receive information or apply for a government grant. You can check the legitimacy of a government grant here.