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.