Govt Grants – Bank & Finance

Govt Grants – Bank & Finance

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has filed suit against three out-of-state telemarketing firms and three individuals accused of defrauding Massachusetts consumers by running government grant scams.

The suit charges the companies took consumers? money in exchange for false promises that they would receive thousands of dollars in government grants.

Named in Reilly’s suit are Consumer Grants USA, Inc., a Florida company, along with James T. Lovern, its president, and Leo J. Corrigan, its vice president; Freedom Grants, Inc., a Nevada company, and Evelyn Hernandez, its president and director; and Your Choice, Inc., a Wyoming company.

The lawsuit alleges that these companies and their principals violated both the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and the Massachusetts Telemarketing Solicitation Act.

According to the complaint, the defendants used telemarketers to call Massachusetts consumers claiming to be from companies affiliated with the United States government.

The state says the telemarketers would tell consumers that they had qualified for a government grant worth thousands of dollars and all they had to do to receive the grant was agree to pay a processing fee by automatic debit from their checking account. Consumers who gave their checking account information to the telemarketers soon found that their accounts were automatically debited the processing fee — typically $249-$259.

No government grant funds ever arrived. If the consumers received anything at all, it was only a book called Guide to Government Grants, which purports to list government grant programs to which consumers could apply.

While the defendants guaranteed consumers that they would receive government grants worth thousands of dollars, Reilly’s office said it is not aware of any consumer receiving any grant funds.

Reilly’s complaint also alleges that the telemarketers violated the state Do Not Call laws by calling consumers on the Do Not Call registry.

The defendants, according to AG Reilly’s lawsuit, used their deceptive telemarketing scheme to solicit hundreds of consumers across Massachusetts. Telemarketers the defendants hired used fictitious names to deceive consumers into believing the calls came from a government-affiliated program. Some of the names included Government Grant Processing Center, US Government Grants, and Federal Government Grant Processing Center.

Reilly’s Office identified five Massachusetts consumers who were deceived into paying processing fees and many more Massachusetts consumers are likely to have been defrauded.

The suit seeks a court order shutting down the defendants’ telemarketing activities in Massachusetts, as well as restitution for consumers, civil penalties, and the costs of investigating and litigating this action against the defendants.

Reilly advises consumers that the federal government never solicits applicants for grants or loans over the telephone, and will never give out a grant over the telephone. AG Reilly offers the following advice to consumers about phony grant schemes:

• JUST HANG UP if you get a call saying you’re entitled to or have been awarded a federal grant.
• NEVER wire funds, or send money to a stranger.
• NEVER confirm or give out your credit card number, bank account information, social security number, date of birth or address to a stranger.

Reilly says consumers who have fallen victim to government grant scams should contact their bank or other financial institution and seek to stop the payment.

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