Warning for Scientists: Scammers are Giving Away NIH Grants

Published: Aug 15, 2017

Warning for Scientists: Scammers are Giving Away NIH Grants August 15, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers of a scam involving the National Institutes of Health (NIH). People are receiving calls saying that NIH is granting them $14,000. In order to receive the grant, the consumer should pay a fee through iTunes or Green Dot and provide personal financial information, such as their bank account number.

First, the federal government does not call consumers demanding personal or financial information. Secondly, the NIH provides grants to researchers, not to individuals for personal use.

WHNT19 News provide five pointers for spotting a government grant scam.

1. Don’t give out financial information to people you don’t know. That includes bank account information and credit card information. “Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.”

2. Don’t pay to get “free money.” This applies to government grants or anything else. Real government agencies won’t ask you to pay a processing fee. The official access site for federal grant-making agencies is grants.com.

3. Just because it looks like a government agency doesn’t mean it is. Copycat websites are easy to make, as are official-looking letterheads and emails. For example, the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t exist.

4. Take control. One way to cut the number of telemarketing calls you receive is to place your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Register online at donotcall.gov.

5. File a complaint. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a government grant scam, or any other phone or online scam, file a complaint with the FTC online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Officials with the FTC indicate, "If you get a call like this from someone asking you to pay money to get money, stop. Hang up the phone.”

They also encourage consumers to look for red flags. “Has a caller ever asked you to write money, cash a check they send you (and send them money), or use a prepaid card to pay someone?” the FTC states. “Those are all red flags. Nobody legitimate—and certainly not the government—will ever ask you to pay in any of those ways.”

The NIH has numerous ways of identifying what it spends its money on, with its Research Portfolio Online Reporting tools (RePORT). Some of those tools include the Categorical Spending (RCDC) tool, which highlights the annual monies spent for various research, conditions and disease categories based on grants, contracts and other funding mechanisms, the Federal RePORTER, which is a search engine for funding information related to several research funding agencies, including NIH, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Defense (DoD), the Veterans Administration (VA) and others. And the World RePORT, which is a new system that spotlights world biomedical research from major funding sources, including collaboration information.

The NIH grant scams has been ongoing since at least 2016. As such, HHS even has a webpage dedicated to avoiding grant scams.

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