The number of scams that have surfaced during the pandemic is astounding.  Here's a new one involving Facebook Messenger chat or Instagram direct messages.

The Better Business Bureau says to look out for a direct message that looks like it "comes from a friend, relative, community member, or another other person you trust. The message is telling you about a grant for COVID-19 relief. Your “friend” may claim to have already applied and received thousands of dollars."

These messages aren't from friends at all.  Scammers are either hacking social media accounts or creating separate lookalike profiles by stealing photos and personal information.  They hope you will trust the message since it's from a "friend" and provide personal information that they can use to steal from you.

Another version of this scam uses phone calls and text messages.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

A big red flag is that to secure one of these "grants" you'll be asked to pay upfront first for "delivery" or "processing" fees.  The scammer then takes your money and no grant money ever appears.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to spot this scam:

  1. Be wary of your friends’ taste online: Your friend or family member may have impeccable judgment in real-life. But online, email messages, social posts, and direct messages could be from a hacked or impersonated account.
  2. Don't pay any money for a "free" government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a "free" grant, it isn't really free. A real government agency won't ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant you have already been awarded. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is Grants.gov. For information regarding Canadian grants, contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
  3. Check for look-alikes. Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.
  4. Report scam accounts and messages to Facebook and Instagram: Alert administrators to fake profiles, compromised accounts, and spam messages by reporting them on Facebook and Instagram.