Sorry: You Have Not Won A Grant From The National Institutes Of Health

Image courtesy of NIH Image Gallery

No matter what the person on the phone says, we’re sorry to tell you that you have probably not won a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Neither has anyone else who isn’t performing actual health research.

The Federal Trade Commission and NIH report that ordinary citizens are receiving calls from advance fee scammers, who tell victims that they’ve received $14,000 grants from NIH. They just have to send iTunes or Greendot card codes to cover administrative fees.

This is not a thing. Much like the Internal Revenue Service and the police, the real National Institutes of Health does not call people up and ask for payment in gift cards. It doesn’t offer grants to random non-researchers at all.

No matter how convincing the person on the phone may be, random government grants don’t fall from the sky. If they did, the agencies would not notify you over the phone, you would not need to pay fees in advance, and you definitely would not need to pay them using iTunes gift cards.

“No legitimate federal government employee would ever call you and tell you that you qualify or have been approved for a grant for which you never applied,” the Department of Health and Human Services explains on its page about grant scams.

Advance fee fraud is a venerable scam, dating back to at least the 19th-century “Spanish prisoner letter” fraud. Scammers have always adapted with the times, shifting from handwritten letters to typewriters to photocopiers to robocalls and emails.