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United Way Blog

Educate Yourself & Loved Ones on Scammers

If something is too good to be true, it probably is. Double that when unsolicited emails, texts, spam calls or DMs offer “free money.” 

United Way recently received a report from the victim of fraud. The victim reported he was contacted via Facebook by “Agent Kate” of United Way regarding a housing grant.  “Agent Kate” just needed him to send a couple hundred dollars to process the grant.  “Agent Kate” sent the victim photos of cash to prove her legitimacy.  Once the victim sent the funds, “Agent Kate” notified him that her boss was upset because more money was needed, and our victim complied.  During the interactions, the victim asked “Agent Kate” for more information about where her United Way was located, and she refused to share because her boss would get angry.  After all was said and done, the victim lost $28,000 and “Agent Kate” disappeared.  

Can you spot the red flags?  This is one example of the reports United Way receives about online scams that use our brand to swindle people. In each case, someone claiming to work for United Way reaches out to congratulate potential victims on “being eligible for a cash grant.”

Impersonating United Way staff or claiming to be a “United Way agent,” the fraudster always requires something so they can “send you the grant.” Requests include personal information (e.g., banking information, date of birth, social media passwords, etc.), gift cards, or cash to cover processing fees. On Facebook, the scammers use your Friends list to gain credibility.

Don’t fall for it! No local, state, regional or country United Way would do that.

You will never be contacted by a United Way with a grant offer. It is highly unusual for any charity to do this. If you get an offer like this, please call your local United Way immediately – before providing any information. You can look up your local United Way here.

Unfortunately, the examples keep coming. A local United Way posted on Workplace by Facebook about a scam website that looked legit at first glance. It even had a United Way public service announcement embedded on the page. But the How to Apply section mimicked scam tactics, promising thousands of dollars in assistance. The only contact number offered was via WhatsApp (another red flag). It's important to stay vigilant!

Here are some expert tips to protect against scams:

•  Be suspicious of any unsolicited emails or calls from anyone with an offer of grants.
•  If you do get contacted, ask for the caller’s contact information and let them know you’ll call them back. Call the organization directly (not the number you were given) to confirm the identify of anyone who has contacted you.
•  Never provide personal information in response to unsolicited offers of assistance. 
•  Check your social media account settings to limit what others can view about you. 
•  Limit access to your Friends list on Facebook, because that’s a data source regularly used by scammers to win your trust and confidence.
•  According to one online security company, other online scams include phishing email scams; the Nigerian scam; greeting card scams; bank loan or credit card scam; and the lottery scam.
•  Sign up for watchdog alerts from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network

Two reliable sources of consumer advice posted warnings about these scams. The Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports offer additional guidance to identify this kind of fraud and to protect your personal information.

If you or a loved one is a victim of a scam, report it to law enforcement as well as the Federal Trade Commission

If you are the victim of identity theft, contact IdentityTheft.Gov, the Federal Trade Commission’s one-stop resource to guide you through the identity recovery process.