Better Business Bureau: Free money

Better Business Bureau: Free money

By Dennis Horton, Manager Public Affairs Better Business Bureau – Regional Office

How does an offer of “free cash grants”, “free money for debt consolidation”, “cash grants for personal needs, medical bills, education or new business start-up” sound? I hope too good to be true!

You may have noticed a growing number of these ads being e-mailed recently as well as placed in some classified ads. They claim that “foundations can be a better source for money than banks” and “anyone can get an interest free cash grant”. The e-mails we have seen encourage consumers to send an application fee of $20 to $50, with the promise that their financial needs and requirements will be matched with the most suitable private foundations, or sometimes they promise to provide a list of available grants. If you decide to respond to these ads, be aware that your name and information may never reach an actual foundation.

Generally, obtaining a grant is a complicated process requiring documentation and research. Although there may be private foundations whose requirements are based on an individual’s personal need, the vast majority of grant-making foundations require that applicants for funds meet very specific guidelines. Almost always they require that the funds be used for specific projects or programs being undertaken by not-for-profit organizations and charities that the foundation may wish to support.

Cash Free Grants of East Windsor, N.J. had engaged in mail order promotions which stated for a fee of approximately $50 Cash Free Grants would match a consumer’s financial need with a foundation that gave grants to individuals. Their ad said, “they knew where the money was.” A federal judge said they were misleading the public and ordered refunds for any consumers who felt they had been duped.

Some words to the wise, if you are considering responding and paying advance fee money to any company offering grants:

Watch out for phrases like “free grant money.” Grants do not have to be repaid; therefore, there is no need to use the word “free”.

Organizations do not usually give out grants for personal debt consolidation or to pay for other personal needs. Grants are usually given to serve a social good, i.e., training under employed youth, historic preservation etc.

Check with the library for reference books describing foundations and the criteria used in awarding grants.

Think twice before providing up-front money to an unknown company before services are provided. Also check out the company with the BBB or the Attorney General’s Office.

If you are having financial problems, get the help of a non-profit credit counseling service; they may be able to assist you at no charge.

For business start up grants, contact a city or state Economic Development Office to see if they know of grant programs for which you may qualify. These are free.

On a different topic: the BBB needs volunteer arbitrators. Attorneys or experienced arbitrators may qualify to become a volunteer arbitrator to resolve automotive and other consumer/business disputes for the BBB. Two training sessions are planned for Sept. 17 and 18 and other Sept. 19 and 20 in Chicago. A $100 registration fee is required. For additional information regarding these sessions, contract Roxanne Calibraro at 312-245-2513 or e-mail

For information on a company or to file a complaint contact the Rockford office at 815-963-2222. For membership information, call 815-490-9283.

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