Never respond to an unsolicited offer for government grant where you pay. It's a scam
The great thing about getting a grant, is that you don't have to pay back the money. What a lot of people don't know is that government grants are tough to get and you don't pay to get one. But scammers are hijacking Facebook profiles to try to trick you into doing just that.
"I was on Facebook and I was chatting with my friend Laurel," said Sharon Murphy.
Murphy is one of the latest casualties of government grant scams that are duping consumers across the country.
"I was supposed to get 150 thousand dollars if I paid 2 thousand," explained Murphy.
She didn't know that the person she was chatting with on Facebook had hijacked her friend's account and was steering her to a fake federal grant agent- another scammer.
Trusting a friendship, Murphy said she ended up being told she needed to send $5,000- part of it in the form of prepaid gift cards. She was instructed to take photos of the code numbers and send them to the "agent."
In return, she got dozens of checks deposited to her bank account, the number for which she was instructed to provide as part of the government grant process. Murphy says she withdrew some of the money- then the ball dropped.
"The bank notified me that my account had been defrauded and to please come in."
The bank gave Murphy copies of nearly $50,000 worth of counterfeit checks. Adding insult to injury, the scammers hijacked Murphy's Facebook account and targeted all her Facebook friends, posing as Murphy, pitching the same federal grant scheme.
"No, it wasn't me," said Murphy who is out $5,000 of her life savings. Her bank lost $7,000 because of the fake checks.
"I couldn't eat and I got sick to my stomach," Murphy said.
And she has to pay the bank back all the money.
"Yes, because I was the one who took it out of my bank account. The bank cannot be liable for it."
As embarrassed and angry as she is about being tricked- Murphy wants her story to help keep others from buying into this devastating scheme.
"The money is going to look good to you. But you never get it. And you go deep in debt," Murphy warned.
No matter what anyone tells you:
*Never respond to unsolicited grant offers. Period.
*Never send money to someone who contacts you out of the blue.
* Never share your personal or bank account information,.
*Never buy prepaid gift cards and share the code with someone you don't know.
These are all warning signs of common scams that steal hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
"Don't be gullible," said Murphy. She filed a police report and got help strengthening her Facebook privacy settings. Murphy says she had to take out a loan to finish paying off the bank.