BBB: Heat, Grant Scams

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BBB: Heat, Grant Scams (WLS)

BBB Urges Consumers to Make Cool Headed Decisions as Temperatures Sizzle
With the heat index in the mid 90's, the last thing anyone wants is for the air conditioning to go out. But when it does, you need a reliable contractor - and fast.
"Good air conditioning contractors are in high demand now, so you shouldn't be surprised if you can't get it fixed immediately," says Steve Bernas, Chicago and Northern Illinois BBB's president and CEO. "You need to keep your cool and research companies before you sign a contract for repairs or replacement."

Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a great resource for finding trustworthy contractors. Consumers can find dozens of BBB Business Reviews on heating and air conditioning contractors at They also can browse BBB's Accredited Business Directory for air conditioning businesses that have pledged to uphold BBB Standards for Trust.

BBB Business Reviews include a rating from A+ to F and show whether a company has complaints and how the company responded to the complaints. Many contractors also have customer reviews that show how they've delivered service to customers.

BBB recommends that consumers consider the following when looking for an air conditioning contractor:

Research the company's background and licensing. Visit for the BBB Business Review of any service company you plan to hire. Learn more about its reputation and any history of complaints. Always confirm that the company is licensed and insured.

Compare prices and service packages. Get at least 2 estimates for any air conditioning repair, maintenance or replacement. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.

Review warranty coverage. Find out if the company offers any type of warranty or guarantee. Make certain you understand the terms and conditions of the coverage. Also, be sure to check the warranty on your current air conditioning unit to determine whether any repairs or replacements may be covered.

Ask about energy efficiency. Many new air conditioning units are manufactured to be more energy efficient than others. Look for the ENERGY STAR label to find out more about products that may cost a little more up front, but save you in energy costs over time. Some models may even be eligible for a tax credit. Ask your HVAC contractor (heating ventilation and air conditioning) to verify tax credit eligibility and provide the Manufacturer Certification Statement for the equipment you plan to purchase.

Grant Scammers using social media, fake web-sites, and phone calls to take fees to process fake grants.

As Chicago hosts a House of Representatives committee hearing over increasing cyber-threats, the Better Business Bureau is seeing a rash of grant seeking victims cropping up.

As the job search and grant search season heat up - so do scammers telling people they have been accepted for a grant. Scammers often make random calls or set up fake web sites to lure their prospects in. As students start looking for grants for the fall, a number of recipients have fallen victim to this fake grant scam including some from Chicago and northern Illinois

Scammers often tell their targets they have been an awarded a sizeable grant and they need to send handing fees as this local school grant victim describes...

"I had been applying for grants for school and someone called and said that I was getting a $10,000 grant to use for school or anything else that I wanted. He told me that in order to get the money that I had to send a $500 money order and I did. They called back a couple of days later and asked for an $800 fee."

Scammers using phones, websites and social media for Student and U.S. Grant Scams

The Student Grant Scammers use similar tactics to a more common rash of people who are being contacted by phone or social media saying they are winners of a U.S. Grant.

Scammers keep asking for fees until the victim finally gets wise and stops sending money. A recent victim reports to the BBB that he was contacted via messenger on Facebook claiming he was the lucky winner of a Federal Government Grant in conjunction with Facebook. He started by wiring a $250 free and continued until he had lost $4,000.00

The Better Business Bureau advises that no one from the Federal Government will ever call with an offer of free grant money.

"Unfortunately, not enough people know the facts and instead believe they are the lucky winners of unearned cash," says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "The Federal Government does not give grants to individuals to spend on vacations or to pay outstanding debts, as these recent grant offers claim. A tip-off to the rip-off is they need fees wired to them before receiving the grant - and victims are told they can use the money for anything."

Scammers sometimes purchase consumer information from companies that run payday loan affiliate websites. These companies usually have no idea they are dealing with scammers. Instead, they are lead to believe the scammers can offer some of their loan applicant's financial assistance.

Armed with these lists and consumer information, victims are told they are being awarded a federal grant, generally from $7,000 to $9,000.

To begin the process, the consumers are asked how they'd like to receive their money. They can have it deposited into their checking accounts, applied to a credit or debit card or receive it via wire transfer. However, in order to have access to their money, they must pay a "processing fee" or "general legal fee activation."

If the consumer takes the bait and pays the fee, they are asked for more money to cover costs for insurance or other charges; some victims report losing several hundred dollars to these scammers.

In addition to losing their money, the victims also place themselves at greater risk for identity theft.

To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, the BBB recommends:

Don't give out your bank account information to anyone you don't know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your account information confidential. Don't share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.

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 or 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 official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is

Look-alikes aren't the real thing. Just because the caller says he's from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean that he is. There is no such government agency.

Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may appear like they're calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

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