COLUMBUS, Ind. – A Vietnam War veteran is out $2,650 after falling victim to a government imposter scam making the rounds in central Indiana.
Charles Jorgensen, 72, received a phone call from the “Federal Grant Division” notifying him that he’d been selected for a grant.
It seemed plausible to Jorgensen because he had served in the Air Force and spends a lot of time at the VA receiving medical treatment.
So, to cover “processing fees,” he purchased iTunes gift cards and read the numbers to the caller.
“They make it sound good, but then they keep dragging it on and say ‘we need one more payment, we need one more payment,’” said Jorgensen.
Jorgensen said his money never arrived.
Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney called the “Federal Grant Division” at (425) 245-5109, but once Kenney started asking questions, they hung up.
Jorgensen said he should have known better.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” said Jorgensen. “I should have realized at the beginning it was phony.”
Jorgensen filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission as well as the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
According to the Indiana Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau, government imposter scams are making the rounds and continue to claim more victims as the scammers pretend to be government agents.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to represent a government agency, just hang up.
“We encourage consumers who receive such calls to call the actual government agency the imposter claimed to represent if they have any questions, or are concerned they may really owe money,” said Corey Elliot, spokesperson for the Indiana Attorney General’s office. “No government agent nor office will ever call you over the phone demanding money.”
Consider it a red flag if someone asks you to wire money, or to go buy debit cards or gift cards.
“Hoosiers should be more cautious than ever before. Whether they are contacted by someone on the phone, confronted in person by someone trying to sell goods or services, or receiving communication via email - it is a good practice to never give any personal, sensitive or private information out to anyone,” said Elliot. “We encourage skepticism. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.”
You can file a complaint at IndianaConsumer.com or call (317) 232-6330 or (800) 382-5516.
Tips from the Better Business Bureau on how to spot this scam:
• The government communicates through the mail, not Facebook. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be very cautious of any unsolicited social media posts, calls, text messages or emails you receive.
• Don't pay any money for a "free" government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it isn't really free. A real government agency won't ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded.
• Be wary of look-a-like government agencies. Just because the caller says he's from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean that he is... or that such an agency exists. When in doubt, do a quick online search.
• Pick up the phone. If you receive a suspicious call or email, call the local government agency to check its legitimacy. Look for the phone number on previous correspondence or the official government website. Don't call the number in the email.
• Don't trust your friends' tastes online. It might not actually be them "liking" or sharing these scam posts. Their account may have been hacked or impersonated.