TYPES OF GRANT SCAMS
Government grant scams and deceptive practices, both on and off the Internet, are pervasive. I can't tell you the number of times that I've been contacted by very upset people who have fallen for these "free money" grant scams. They're upset because they have lost money, have had their bank accounts wiped out, have paid for useless products and services, or are stuck with monthly payments.
There are a number of grant scams making the rounds these days. They include:
When you answer your phone, someone from an official-sounding organization tells you that the government is giving out free grant money to help people in these tough economic times or to stimulate the economy. Lucky you -- you have been selected to receive a $10,000 grant, no strings attached, to spend however you like. All you need to do to get this free money is to give the organization some information so they can make sure that you get the money right away. They need you to verify your name and address. Oh, and they also need your social security number because the government needs to make sure that you are the person you say you are. Finally, since they are going to deposit the government grant money directly into your bank account, you need to give them your account number.
Sounds good, right? Except...the U.S. government does not give away grant money over the phone. They don't call people to tell them that they are eligible for a grant. Foundations don't do this either. The fact is, the people from that official-sounding organization are scammers who want to empty your bank account. If you receive a call like this, HANG UP! Do not give out any information. Read more about this at the Federal Trade Commission Website.
You see an ad in your newspaper, on the web, or in a flyer. A company such as the National Grant Conference is holding a seminar in your city, and admission is free. At this seminar, you'll learn all about "secret" government grants that others don't know about, and how you can get in on the action. So your're curious and decide to attend. After all, the seminar is free, so what can you lose?
Well, you can lose a lot. A lot of money, that is. These seminars are presented by expert marketers who are very good at what they do. And what they do is to try to persuade you to sign up for the products and services they offer. For a hefty fee, of course. They will try to sell you books and training and consulting services that are supposedly designed to help you get government grants. But once you sign up and purchase these things, you will be caught in a vicious circle of monthly fees for goods and services that don't provide what was promised.
So before you decide to attend any of these seminars, check out the company that is promoting them. This is important, because there are some legitimate organizations that do provide good free seminars without trying to sell you anything. For example, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and its affiliated organizations often present local training programs and seminars that cover a variety of topics including government grants. Your local community college or other local organizations may also hold similar seminars.
Grant Writer Ranking Websites
Over the past few years, a number of sites that claim to "rank" grant writers have popped up on the Web. These might be called something like the "top 10 grant proposal writers" or something similar. I am on some of these lists, and so are some of my colleagues. At first we were all mystified as to how we got on these lists. Then we realized that what they wrote about us on their sites was untrue. They hadn't contacted our clients to get references -- in fact, they don't even know who our clients are, since we don't publish our client lists. And they certainly hadn't contacted us directly to ask questions or to verify their information.
Can you trust these top 10-type ranking sites for grant consultants? Probably not. Are they doing any type of independent, non-biased rankings of grant proposal consultants? No. What they are doing is promoting their own services by ranking themselves #1 on the lists. It's a clever trick, and it's not obvious that the #1 ranked firm is the same firm that put up the website, because the names are different. The #1 firm is described in glowing terms -- their work is terrific, their clients love them, they have fabulously-talented people on staff, and they win lots and lots of grants for their clients. On the other hand, the consultants and firms that are ranked lower than #1 just don't seem to measure up.
So if you're looking at one of these lists and you decide that the #1 firm is what you need, make sure you check them out very carefully before you commit to using their services. Simply saying that you're #1 doesn't make it so. Contact them directly, ask specific questions, check their references, and carefully read whatever documentation and contracts they send you before you sign up.
Free Money Grant Books
There are hundreds of ads on the Web (and some on TV) for books you can buy that claim they can help you get free government and foundation money for personal grants, business grants, and grants for women, minorities, veterans, housing, education, transportation, and other things. These books contain listings and descriptions of many (but certainly not all) grants available from government agencies, foundations and other organizations.
The books often include all of the information that you can get for free from the U.S. Government's Grants.gov Website and Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (see my Government Grants Page for information on these sites). Many of the books also contain information on loans, including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and other types of Government loans. Information on these loans is also available for free on My Site and on Government agency websites. Much of the other information in these books can also be obtained for free on the Web or at a public library. In fact, you may find some of these books at a library or bookstore, where you can look through them before you buy. If you don't have the time to spend researching and compiling this information yourself, these books might be a useful resource for you.
BUT BEWARE -- what the ads for the books don't tell you is that the majority of the grants that you'll find in them are only for non-profit organizations, universities, or financial aid for education. And other than providing you with many pages of information that have been copied from government and other websites, the books don't tell you what to actually do with all of this information. Moreover, since the government may change, update, delete or modify the grants that are available through its various agencies, you may find that you are paying for outdated information. Additionally, in some instances, you can really get scammed because you end up with monthly payments when you thought you were only buying a one-time book. Most professional grant researchers and organizations who are seriously seeking grant money do not use these $29.99 all-in-one books. They use professional publications, CDs, and web-based subscription services such as those developed and sold by the Foundation Center which is a non-profit organization. The Foundation Center is only one of several professional organizations that compile and offer such materials. You can find others by doing some research or asking the Reference Librarian at your local library.
Other pages related to government grants include:
- Government Business Grants
- Other Government Grants
- Government Grants by Subject
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about government grants
- Grant information by Government Agency
- Other government grant-related Links
- Finding and getting Free Money
- Information on Recovery and Stimulus Grants and Funding
- Proposal writing Blog