INDIANAPOLIS – The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers about a fake government grant scam that appears to be from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The scam comes with some big red flags right off the bat, according to the FTC warning.  First off, the communication from the scammer should make you suspicious.  The scammer, claiming to be from HHS, will contact you about a grant you didn’t apply for and then ask you to pay for more information about it.  Yikes!

While that may seem like an obvious fraud, the Office of the Inspector General notes that the scam can look realistic to someone who isn’t on the lookout for fraud.  According to the OIG, the scammers will use various social media platforms and direct you to to fake websites complete with live customer support and chat boxes.  If they convince you they’re legitimate, they’ll begin asking you for personal details and payment information to “process” the grant.

If it gets to that point, and you give them the information they ask for, you’ve been scammed.  Keep in mind, banks and credit card companies are pretty good about reimbursing money that’s been stolen by fraud.  A reimbursement is much less likely if you are tricked into giving your money away.

To avoid this scam, keep in mind that Health and Human Services, as well as other government agencies, will not contact you out of the blue about a grant you didn’t apply for.  HHS will also never make you pay to get a grant or more information about one.  And government websites end in “.gov.”  If you’re directed to a site that ends in .com, .org or .us — it’s fake.

You can read more on this scam, as well has how to avoid and report it on the websites of the FTC and OIG.