The Office of Community Services (OCS) is warning communities across the country of a scam targeting individuals for money under the guise of its Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) Program.
According to OCS, scammers are contacting individuals to tell them they won an SSBG award, yet must pay a transaction fee to receive the award. The scammers misrepresent themselves as federal agents. The targets of the fraudulent activity, in some cases, report to have paid out amounts totaling $1,000 in credit card payments or more.
Please be advised: the federal government does not charge fees to access services associated with the Social Services Block Grant. If someone contacts you requesting payment to receive services or funding through SSBG, do not comply and please report the incident.
Characteristics of the Fraudulent Outreach
Individuals victimized by this activity, or who reach the Office of Community Services in hopes to confirm their alleged winnings prior to payment, express similar circumstance that are noted below:
- Notices of winning may come to the targeted individual via e-mail via @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @aol.com or other commercial addresses.
- The name on the e-mail account may entail an official-sounding title such as AgentJaneDoe@gmail.com.
- Notices may come via a social media message app such as Facebook Messenger – either via text or calling.
- A complementary notice appears to come from a social media friend to confirm receipt of their winnings or in some cases, refer the targeted individual to another source to begin to claim their winnings.
- Individuals are asked to purchase credit card gift cards to pay for the alleged SSBG winnings or grant transaction fee.
If you were contacted by an alleged federal agent advising that you won an SSBG award, yet needed to pay a fee, please follow these steps to report what happened:
- Report the information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Grants Fraud Hotline. Please report any material asked of you, any money spent, and identifying information such as the email address and phone number used by the person misrepresenting the U.S. government. The hotline can be reached at: 1-800-447-8477.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTCHELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
Steps Toward Remediation
For additional information, please see this website by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.hhs.gov/grants/grants/avoid-grant-scams/index.html.