Oak Ridge man falls victim to grant hoax

Oak Ridge man falls victim to grant hoax

Posted:
Alfred Hill is back in school hitting the books, hoping to start a second career in his early forties. He got a grant offer on the phone. Alfred Hill is back in school hitting the books, hoping to start a second career in his early forties. He got a grant offer on the phone.
The fraudulent caller directed Alfred Hill to a local grocery store and told him to purchase a series of pre-paid Green Dot cards. The fraudulent caller directed Alfred Hill to a local grocery store and told him to purchase a series of pre-paid Green Dot cards.
"I kind of came out of my comfort zone, and I'm paying for it now," Alfred Hill said. "I kind of came out of my comfort zone, and I'm paying for it now," Alfred Hill said.
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By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

OAK RIDGE (WATE) - The Internet is filled with grant opportunities, especially those aimed at students. Some grants are for real, but many others are not. How can you tell the difference?

A man in Oak Ridge thought he was on the right path for aid until it was too late.

This story happens all too often to unsuspecting victims of a very familiar fraudulent scheme. The crooks take advantage of students looking for thousands of dollars worth of government grants.

The only problem is there are no grants.

Alfred Hill is back in school hitting the books, hoping to start a second career in his early forties.

As a divorced father, he has obligations to his children. To ease the financial burden of school, he searches for grant opportunities.

One came along on the phone offering Hill a $10,200 grant.

"Since I'm in school, I had filled out some grants so it wasn't totally out of left field," he said. "It sounded legitimate, then he started saying I'd have to pay him some money for taxes, for processing. But he said I would get that back."

Unaware that this could be a scam, Hill was convinced the money was coming from the U.S. Grant Service.

"They give you a process, a confirmation number and those sorts of things. You can really believe that is the government," said Hill.

Once they had him hooked, the fraudulent caller, who went by the name of Brian Smith, directed Hill to a local grocery store and told him to purchase a series of pre-paid Green Dot cards.

Hill says he gave Smith around $5,000 total. He didn't pay the money all at one time, but he had been directed to wire out of country, which is a dead giveaway it's a scam.

The government really does give grants for college and other purposes. Those offered a genuine government grant are required to meet a lot of formalities, complete a lot of paperwork and hand it over to correct authorities.

You can avoid being scammed by remembering there is no up front fee required to pay for a legitimate government grant. You don't get offered a grant out of the blue over the phone, and they won't charge you for sending the money.

That's what they wanted from Hill the day 6 On Your Side visited.

"In fact, she called me back and asked me to send more money. I told her, no," said Hill. [The caller wanted] $275. They said that was for FedEx to bring me my check."

We showed Mr. Hill people from other states who believed they too were eligible for free money. They also wired their hard earned money, but never received any money. 

"I kind of came out of my comfort zone, and I'm paying for it now," he said.

Most government grants are made for specific purposes, not just because someone is a good taxpayer. That was a line Hill heard.

Grants are awarded to cities, schools and non-profit organizations as well as to individuals for things like college expenses.

Again, government grants never require a fee of any kind, and you won't receive an unexpected phone call offering you a grant.

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