Stimulus Check Scams! Free money from OBAMA?? Are you kidding? Web sites offering grant money from the government are bogus NIGERIA

By Herb Weisbaum

Have you heard? The government is giving away free money! It’s all part
of the Obama stimulus package. These government grants can be used for
anything: buy a car, purchase a home, start a business or pay your
credit card bills. Even take a vacation. And here’s the best part –
because this is a grant, you never have to repay the money.

How do I know this? It’s all over the web. Just search “stimulus” or
“government grants” and see what comes up. You’ll find site after site
that promises to show you how to get your share of the “billions of
dollars which go unclaimed each year.”

Con artists are creating phony web sites with names like and
“They’re advertising them on search engines like Google and on social
networking sites like Facebook. They’re also promoting them in chat
rooms,” says Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at the
Consumer Federation of America.

The scammers even create bogus blogs, to tout and drive traffic to their
sites. I clicked on which took me to
“Jessica’s Money Blog.” Jessica, who does not give her last name, wants
everyone to know how she got a $12,000 check from the government to
start her own $5,000 a month business. She claims she learned how to get
this free money from a site called and she urges
readers to get their share of the loot.

“Don’t fall for it,” warns Eileen Harrington, acting director of the
Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “There is no
money in the stimulus package to send out individual checks to people.”

The Grant University gets a failing grade The Better Business Bureau has
received hundreds of complaints from people across the country who took
the bait. Instead of a grant, these victims got unexpected charges on
their credit or debit card accounts.

In the past year, about 350 people complained to the BBB about a web
site called The Grant University run by a company located in Draper,
Utah. Tracie Oberlies is one of them. “I think they’re scam artists,”
she says.

Oberlies wanted to buy a small farm in her hometown of Lugoff, S.C. She
hoped the Grant University would help her get the money. The web site
offers a 7-day trial membership for just $1.98. It gives you access to
the company’s site plus a disc called “The Grant Professor.” Oberlies
was unable to log on to the site, even when her disc arrived – 11 days
after her order.

She called the company to cancel “and they kept giving me the
runaround.” They told her it was too late to cancel and they would not
refund the first month’s membership fee of $69.95 they had billed to her
credit card.

In her complaint to the BBB Oberlies writes, “I have contacted them a
minimum of ten different occasions and they continuously hang up on me
and refuse to allow me to speak with a supervisor.” Eventually Oberlies
got her money back, but only after she told the company she was going to
go to the news media with her story.

The BBB gives The Grant University an “F” rating, its lowest grade. Jane
Driggs, president of the BBB in Salt Lake City tells me that rating is
based on the volume of complaints and the failure to resolve many of

“They are preying on people who really think they are going to get the
free money,” Driggs says. “And there is no free money.”

Just the tip of the iceberg A company in Las Vegas called The Grant
Instructor has generated even more complaints – 450 so far. The BBB says
the company, which also has an “F” grade, runs at least two dozen sites
with names such as: American Grant Club, Get My Grant, Grant Dollars,
Grants Are Easy, Grant Resource Center and Your American Grant.

Christopher Gaffer of Mankato, Minn. stumbled onto one of their sites
called “The Grant Search.” Gaffer is on the board of a non-profit group
in Mankato that helps provide affordable housing. Part of their funding
comes from grants. Gaffer went online to look for new funding

The initial cost was just $1.95 for seven days access to the Grant
Search database. Gaffer paid but never got his access code. Seven days
later, he found a charge for $49.50 on his credit card for “a recurring
monthly membership.” Gaffer tried to contact the company but could not
find a phone number or e-mail address. “It was a nightmare,” he says.

After complaining to the BBB and waiting a long time, Gaffer got a
partial refund of $24.50. “It’s a scam,” he says. And he wants others to
learn from his mistake.

I contacted both The Grant University and The Grant Search and did not
receive a response to my request for a comment.

The bottom line

The Federal government does give out billions of dollars in grant money
every year. Most of these grants either help students pay for college or
are for clearly defined reasons, such as research or charitable work.

No one has to pay to get a list of government grants or to apply for one.
More importantly, no company can “guarantee”
you’ll receive grant money. You’ll find all the information you need at
free government web sites, such as:, and

One more warning: Some grant scams come in the form of an e-mail offering
you the chance to get free money. These are phishing scams sent by
identity thieves who hope to steal your personal
information. NEVER respond to one of these emails.