Looking for Grants? Watch out for Phishing!

August 18, 2016 | By Lily McManus | Post a Comment

credit cardScenario: You receive phone call or email from a purported federal employee, congratulating you on winning the grant and asking for your organization’s financial information so that you can pay to activate or qualify for the award…what should you do?

As the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) warns grantseekers, the call may have come from an individual impersonating a federal employee and engaging in fraudulent, criminal behavior for the purpose of scamming targets into revealing credit card numbers and other information. “Phishing” activities, or attempts to gather personal or financial information from individuals and organizations, often will involve impersonators of government agencies. You can protect yourself by being aware of the threat, informing others at your organization and knowing what steps you can take when you suspect that you have been the victim of a phishing attempt. HUD has posted a warning and tips for detecting false solicitations on its grants website here.

“HUD will never require grant applicants or awardees to pay money for information, to apply for or to access grant funds, period,” the agency states. “This fraudulent behavior would be a felony punishable by heavy fines and jail time — regardless of whether or not money is exchanged.”

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from a federal agency, you can call the grants management and oversight division of the federal agency in question, or the program manager for any grants that you have already received. The agency’s representatives should be able to assist you in confirming whether a communication you received is legitimate, or checking on the status of your grants to ensure that the agency does not require additional information from you to release award funds. Phone numbers and additional contact information for these divisions are available on federal agency websites.

If the caller has requested payment or solicited financial information from your organization, immediately contact and report the incident to the federal agency’s inspector general. When reporting an incident to the HUD inspector general, the agency instructs you to include the words “HUD Telephone Scam” in the notes section in your report.

You may also get an unsolicited call, email or other type of message from an individual claiming to work for the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), the governmentwide compendium of federal programs, projects, services and activities that provide assistance or benefits. What should you do? According to the CFDA website, the “program does not use social media or contact individuals by phone to solicit, review or make awards, and “no federal employee should contact you with a request for money in order for you to be eligible to receive an award.” Individuals who receive suspicious calls or messages that fit this description should report them to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, as well as local law enforcement authorities.

A good rule of thumb, whether you are a grant applicant or new recipient of federal funds, is to regularly check with the awarding agency’s website for fraud alerts. They will often post updates and warnings pertaining to specific phishing incidents that have been reported and can advise likely targets about red flags to look for and what steps they should take to protect themselves.

Have you been a victim of grant fraud? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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