Northern Illinois Residents Targets in Nationwide Grants Scam

Chicago, IL–(ENEWSPF)– The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois is issuing a warning to residents regarding a phony grants scheme. Potential victims throughout Northern Illinois are each receiving checks totaling nearly three thousand dollars as part of a grant they allegedly have been awarded for fifty thousand dollars.

The grant notifications and checks are coming from a company calling itself Mutual Grants Inc. In this scam, as in other check schemes, the grant notifications and checks are being sent from a location in Canada.

While many victims get caught in grant solicitations received through emails in this case the solicitations are being sent via U.S. Mail. Once received, the recipient is asked to sign and deposit the enclosed check and return the 2,970 dollars to cover fees. The letter also includes a phone number to a “processing agent”, James Bentley, who will provide instructions on returning the money using either Western Union or MoneyGram.

The recipients become victims when it is discovered that the check from Mutual Grants Inc. that they deposited is fake and their bank informs them they are responsible for the funds they withdrew. In some cases they must also pay a fee for insufficient funds.

Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois warns consumers that they should exercise caution as they are being targeted by a scammer, “We have been contacted, via our BBB web site Scam Tips link, by potential victims trying to verify the legitimacy of these award offers.” Additionally, Bernas says, “Other BBB offices have reported a great deal of activity from this grants scheme.”

There are efforts underway by law enforcement agencies to try to curtail this and other check fraud schemes but, Bernas adds, “It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover consumers’ money once they have sent it to these scammers.”

Grant/Check Scam Prevention Tips:

  • Anytime anyone asks you to pay for something that they claim you have won, a red flag should go up. If anyone asks you to wire a payment via Western Union to Canada, another red flag should go up. If you happen to receive a solicitation of being an award or grant winner and then are provided with a check to allegedly cover taxes or fees, turn it into your local Postal Inspector’s Office.
  • Often you are given the name and number of a contact and what these schemes all have in common is a Canadian phone number for you to call- frequently out of Ontario and British Columbia- regardless of where they claim to be, Canada or the United States.
  • Included with the letter will almost always be a legitimate looking check, with an amount that can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The solicitation will tell you that this check is to help you offset the fees for insurance, taxes, and shipping and handling fees which you will need to pay before you can claim your prize, and will then direct you to call their financial advisor in order to find out how to claim the winnings.
  • Sometimes this check may even be addressed as coming from a well-known and/or Fortune 500 company with wide name recognition, which may put you in a false comfort zone. This is in actuality an instance of identity theft of a business, which probably is not aware that its name and identity are being fraudulently used in a check scam.
  • As soon as you call the number provided on your solicitation, you will be instructed to deposit the check into your personal bank account. The check will not have any funds to back it up. After taking out what you think are the funds from the check, you will be instructed to wire a certain amount of money, usually via Western Union of MoneyGram.
  • The money that you will be wiring will be your own, provided that you have enough in your account to cover the amount being sent. If not, within a few days your bank will realize that the check you deposited was a fake one; as a result, it will bounce and you will be held responsible for the money you withdrew and, in some cases, any fees for insufficient funds.
  • Contact the BBB to report the scam at our web site: www.bbb.org.

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As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.