If something is too good to be true, it probably is. Double that when unsolicited emails, texts or DMs offer “free money” or employment.
United Way has received a number of reports recently about scams that are using our brand to swindle people or steal their identity. In each case, someone claiming to work for United Way reaches out to:
- Congratulate potential victims on “being eligible for a cash grant,
- Contact individuals looking for financial assistance via GoFundMe, with offers of cash support from United Way,
- Offer employment based on completing a short application on an online form.
Impersonating United Way staff, the fraudster asks for personal information (e.g. banking information, social media passwords, date of birth, etc.) so they can “send you the grant” or offer employment. These requests come via text message or Facebook messages where 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, and they will never take an application for assistance via text message. 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.
Here are some tips from experts to protect against scams:
- Be suspicious of any unsolicited emails or calls from anyone with an offer of grants or cash assistance.
- 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.
Victims of natural disasters are vulnerable to this kind of fraud, with scammers posing as government officials or charity representatives. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers more information here on how to protect yourself.
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.