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Don't respond to offers for easy money through government and private grants - for a fee

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The Federal Trade Commission just won a court battle that brings a halt to a telemarketing operation it says duped people by promising grant money. The FTC says a lot of people fell for it.

But, for every phony grant operation that gets caught, many others pop up to target people who are in a financial bind.

According an FTC news release, the defendants in the most recent court decision are Hite Media Group, LLC, also doing business as Premium Grants and PremiumGrants.com; Premium Business Solutions LLC and Premium Domain Services LLC, both also d/b/a Premium Services, Premium Grants and PremiumGrants.com; 2 Unique LLC, also d/b/a Premium Services, Unique Grants.com, and Grant Support; Amazing App LLC; Michael Ford Hilliard; Michael De Rosa; Shawn Stumbo; Tiffany Hoffman; and Jeremy Silvers. They are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The FTC lawsuit filed in mid-July accuses the Arizona-based telemarketers of making misrepresentations in offering millions of dollars in grants to individuals.

The Pitch? You can get $10,000 or more in grant money if you pay a fee ranging from $295 to nearly $5,000 up front.

The FTC says people who took the bait got a workbook, had to submit information explaining their need for the grant, including personal and financial information,then got so-called telephone training where marketers pushed more fees in exchange for faster service or additional grant money.

According to the FTC, since at least 2014, the grant telemarketers have taken more than $3 million from consumers who believed the grants were real.

The FTC says most, if not all the people who gave money, got nothing and ended up deeper in debt.

Bottom line: stay away from any grant offer where you have to pay.

And remember most grants do not go to individuals.

They're for non-profits, state and local governments and other organizations. And the application process is both complex and very competitive.

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