Warning in WHEATLAND: Government Grant Scams
Because you pay your income taxes on time, you have been awarded a free $12,500 government grant! To get your grant, simply give us your checking account information, and we will direct-deposit the grant into your bank account!
Sometimes, its an ad that claims you will qualify to receive a free grant to pay for education costs, home repairs, home business expenses, or unpaid bills. Other times, its a phone call supposedly from a government agency or some other organization with an official sounding name. In either case, the claim is the same: your application for a grant is guaranteed to be accepted, and youll never have to pay the money back.
But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nations consumer protection agency, says that money for nothing grant offers usually are scams, whether you see them in your local paper or a national magazine, or hear about them on the phone.
Some scam artists advertise free grants in the classifieds, inviting readers to call a toll-free number for more information. Others are more bold: they call you out of the blue. They lie about where theyre calling from, or they claim legitimacy using an official-sounding name like the Federal Grants Administration. They may ask you some basic questions to determine if you qualify to receive a grant. FTC attorneys say calls and come-ons for free money invariably are rip offs.
Grant scammers generally follow a script: they congratulate you on your eligibility, then ask for your checking account information so they can deposit your grant directly into your account, or cover a one-time processing fee. The caller may even reassure you that you can get a refund if youre not satisfied. In fact, youll never see the grant they promise; they will disappear with your money.
The FTC says following a few basic rules can keep consumers from losing money to these government grant scams:
- Dont give out your bank account information to anyone you dont know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Dont share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Dont pay any money for a free government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a free government grant, it isnt really free. A real government agency wont ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is www.grants.gov.
- Look-alikes arent the real thing. Just because the caller says hes from the Federal Grants Administration doesnt mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch or not.
- Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like theyre calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
- Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
- File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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Something that you may to know about Saudi Arabia
"The Kingdom ... strongly condemns and denounces this cowardly terrorist act that is rejected by true Islamic religion as well as the rest of the religions and beliefs."
So reads the statement issued by Saudi Arabia, where I grew up, the day the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" came under attack, with the loss of 12 lives.
Last Sunday, to show further solidarity with the victims, the Saudi ambassador to France joined other world leaders in Paris for a unity rally to celebrate free speech.
This is consistent with the face Saudi Arabia presents to the outside world. Visitors to the website of the Saudi embassy in Washington are invited to "learn ... how the Kingdom´s political system is rooted in Islam´s traditions which call for peace, justice, equality, consultation and respect for the rights of the individual."
Just two days before the Paris rally, my friend Raif Badawi was removed, in shackles, from a mini-bus outside the Al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah as a large crowd gathered around him after Friday prayers. According to eyewitnesses, he closed his eyes and raised his head skyward as a security officer approached him from behind with a large cane and started to beat him. Witnesses say Raif was lashed 50 times. Afterwards, he was taken back to prison where he is serving a 10-year sentencefor blogging.
Raif´s next flogging was set to take place today, but Saudi authorities postponed it due to medical advice, his wife said. She expects he will be flogged again next weekand every following weekuntil his sentence of 1,000 lashes is complete.
Raif is officially charged with "adopting liberal thought," "founding a liberal website," and "insulting Islam." He has become the latest symbol of the two-faced policy his country takes towards human rights.
Saudi Arabia is a strong American ally that has enjoyed virtually unconditional support from the United States for decades. President Bush famously held hands with its monarch, King Abdullah, as the two strolled through his Crawford, Texas ranch during the King´s 2005 state visit. President Obama was widely criticized for appearing to bow to Abdullah at a G-20 summit in London.
In the same month that ISIS horrified the world with its brutal beheading of journalist James Foley, Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 19 people, for crimes ranging from smuggling cannabis to sorcery. Limb amputations for theft are sanctioned by the state religion.
In addition to oil, Saudi Arabia is the world´s leading exporter of Salafism, an ultra-conservative strain of Islam. The country touts itself as the birthplace of the religion of peaceyet underlines the Islamic declaration of "Shahadah" on its flag with a sword. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi citizen, as were 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11.
Why does a world outraged by the horrific actions of ISIS and the Taliban turn a blind eye to the way this country treats its own citizens?
The first reason is obvious. It isn´t just our governments. Every time we fill our cars with gas, we all bow to the Saudi king.
The second is more complex.
Online videos of Raif´s flogging show worshipers from the mosque, including young children, running excitedly towards the square to watch the beating. Afterwards, the crowd erupts into cheers and applause, chanting "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Great!) in unison.
This isn´t surprising. The public likely considers Raif guilty of blasphemy and apostasy. A 2013 Pew Research poll found that large numbers in Muslim countries favor the death penalty for leaving Islamincluding 88% of Egyptian and 62% of Pakistani Muslims, as well as majorities in Jordan, Malaysia, Palestine, and Afghanistan.
Of course, these views don´t represent all Muslims. But contrary to what we´re usually told, they aren´t just held by a fringe minority either. Many of these countries don´t have populations willing to rally en masse to support free speech and pluralism the way France did. The change has to first come from within.
Raif has sacrificed a great deal to make this change happen. The world must support him and call Saudi Arabia out on its hypocrisy.
Some time ago, just 50 miles east of where Raif is being held today, another dissident once spoke of change, of challenging the status quo, of radical new ideas that would ultimately transform his society. He was ostracized, persecuted, and eventually driven from his city by those wanting to kill him. He was Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam; his persecutors, the Quraysh tribe of Mecca.
Muslims endeavor to emulate the life of Mohammed. Saudi Arabia has instead chosen to emulate the Quraysh.
This week, Raif spent his 31st birthday imprisoned and wounded. With enough awareness, we can put enough international pressure on the Saudi government to ensure that he spends his next one with his wife and their three beautiful children.
Ali A. Rizvi is a Pakistani-Canadian writer and friend of Raif Badawi. He grew up in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and is an advocate for secularism and reform in the Muslim world. He is currently writing his first book, "The Atheist Muslim."