SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) Utahns are getting phone calls offering them a free government grant of $9,250. The caller I.D. shows a U.S. Area code and the caller claims to be from the U.S. Government Grants Department. Only problem, it doesn’t exist.
What’s more the caller has a heavy accent and the sound in the background is something you would expect from a call center in somewhere like India.
Elizabeth, a Salt Lake woman, got one of those calls. The heavily accented man who claimed his name was Rich White, offered her the money in a phone call. She says he told her she’s one of the select few because “I have excellent credit. I don’t owe any money on my taxes and my mortgage was paid in full.”
She says that tipped her off because she doesn’t even own a home and the caller couldn’t tell her, her own name. He pressed her for personal information to make a money transfer. She said just send me a check and he ultimately decided to hang up.
“Typical”, says Francine Giani, Executive Director of The Utah Department of Commerce. She’s seen scams like this come and go in the decades that she’s been protecting Utah consumers. Of this scam she says “I don’t believe there is a U.S. Government Grants Department.”
She says people need to stop and think for a minute every time they hear an offer that sounds too good to be true. “Would the government really be sending you a check for you paying your taxes on time? The answer is no.”
Elizabeth took notes of everything that transpired and called the authorities to report the scam. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to prosecute these people even with the specific number Elizabeth wrote down.
It showed an area code of 315 which is a U.S. Code, but Francine Giani says with modern technology the call could have come from anywhere in the world and that makes it too difficult and too expensive to track down.
Giani says there are other scams like this going around right now, probably hitting thousands of Utahns. They all seem to be using the phone. “Callers are going to call you up and really what they’re looking for is money or personal information, or both.”
Giani has a simple solution and if everyone did this the scammers might disappear. “If it’s an area code or number you don’t recognize, don’t answer. Let it go to your answering machine.”
Like it or not there is no such thing as free money.