Scammers, Beware by Kellie Brungard, GPC

In our increasingly interconnected world, the rapid growth of technology has brought numerous benefits and opportunities. However, it has also opened the door to a darker side of the internet: scammers. These individuals or groups employ deceitful tactics to exploit unsuspecting individuals, leading to financial loss, identity theft, and emotional distress. In 2023, we find ourselves facing an alarming surge in scamming activities, with perpetrators becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approaches. The Federal Trade Commission reported $660 million in losses due to business imposters, a significant increase from $196 million in 2020. This article aims to shed light on the specific ways scamming has grown in 2023 and offers practical tips to help you stay vigilant and protect yourself in this rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Understanding the Growth of Scams in Grant Writing:

  1. Online Accessibility: As funders shift to digital platforms and automated systems, there are more opportunities for scammers to operate online, leveraging the anonymity of the internet to take advantage of users new to systems or with limited time to vet a process. They create fake websites, pose as reputable organizations, and exploit the trust and vulnerability of applicants eager to secure funding.
  2. Limited Oversight: Scams often thrive in areas with limited regulatory oversight, and with numerous agency processes that are dependent, but not integrated, we often learn to navigate with the resources available or another professional’s guidance. The absence of comprehensive monitoring and enforcement mechanisms allows scammers to exploit gaps in the system, making it harder for victims to seek justice or retrieve lost funds.
  3. Time to Think: The increasing demand for fundraisers, coupled with deadline-oriented work, creates a sense of urgency. It’s easy to take an email from a colleague at face value without pausing to think through the legitimacy of their request. Scammers understand this about our world and use tactics that promise to simplify processes or give a sense of urgency.

Common Scams for Grantwriters:

  1. Application Processing Fees: Scammers may request upfront fees for processing grant applications or pose as the source for updating registrations. Legitimate grant programs typically do not require applicants to pay a fee to be considered for funding, to update registrations, or agency systems.
  2. Impersonation of Government Agencies: Scammers exploit the trust associated with government agencies by impersonating them during the grant application process. They create fraudulent websites, email addresses, or phone numbers that mimic official government channels, tricking applicants into providing sensitive information or paying unauthorized fees.

Protect Yourself from Scams:

  1. Verify Legitimate Sources: Ensure that you are accessing information and application portals through official government websites. Beware of unsolicited communication claiming to be from government agencies and independently verify their authenticity before engaging. One key example is looking for a .gov extension on email addresses and websites. If the email address seems suspicious, pause, and reach out to the entity to verify if this is a typical request.
  2. Conduct Due Diligence: Before sharing personal or financial information, verify the credibility of the organization or individual requesting information. Search for official websites, contact information, and reviews from other grant recipients. GrantAdvisor is a great tool for applicant reviews and experience. If a text looks like it could be from your boss or colleague, use another method (e.g., phone, email, or internal messaging software) to verify their request.
  3. Protect Personal Information: Be cautious when sharing personal or financial details online. Avoid providing sensitive information unless you are certain of the recipient’s legitimacy and the security measures in place to protect your data. Know that publicly available information about an organization can make it seem like they have in-depth knowledge of your organization (e.g., past leadership staff, EIN numbers, and addresses).
  4. Educate Yourself: Most processes required by grant funders will have resources available. There should not be costs associated with registering for government systems or updating registrations, with the exception of obtaining certain certified documents. Understanding the legitimate procedures and requirements will help you identify any inconsistencies or red flags in fraudulent schemes. If in doubt, reach out to Assel Grant Services (AGS) or a local Grant Professionals Association Chapter for advice or to verify a process.

As the demand for grant funding continues to rise, so does the prevalence of scams around grant writing. By understanding the factors contributing to the growth of these scams and adopting proactive measures, you can safeguard your funding journey. Diligence, research, and critical thinking are essential in navigating the grant landscape, enabling you to identify genuine opportunities while protecting yourself from fraudulent schemes. Remember, trust your instincts, exercise caution, and seek advice from experienced grant professionals to maximize your chances of securing legitimate funding for your worthy endeavors.

If you are interested in grant services, training, or federal review services, or are interested in our career opportunities, Julie Assel, CGMS, GPC, President/CEO, will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you with a quote for grant services.

This BLOG is aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills

Competency #1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs

Skill 1.1: Identify major trends in public funding and public policy

Competency #2: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking

Skill 2.8: Identify best practices in grant seeking that match organization’s needs with potential funding opportunities

Discover more from Assel Grant Services

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading