A new scam is targeting recent graduates heading to college. The caller tells them they have qualified for grant money for their education that they don't have to pay back. But that's too good to be true.
Kaleah Bridgeforth is a recent high school graduate who was excited to hear the U.S. Department of Education would give her a grant for $7,000.
But her mother, Valerie Bridgeforth, smelled a scam when the caller said that to activate the grant, the family needed to get a GreenDot card from a local Walgreens or Family Dollar store.
"They knew she was a potential college student, so she was a target," Valerie Bridgeforth said.
Anyone can buy a GreenDot card and preload it with money, much like a gift card. They are popular with scammers because once you disclose the series of numbers on the back, your money is gone and cannot be traced.
Channel 4 News listened in as Valerie Bridgeforth returned the call to the woman who said she was from the Department of Education.
"You have reached United States Government Grants Department. This is Cheryl Jones. How can I help you?" the phone operator said.
The woman, who said she was in Washington, DC, told Valerie Bridgeforth the card will need to be preloaded to activate the grant.
"You have to preload with the amount of $250 because that is the exact required amount to activate your $7,000 grant," the person identified as Jones said.
The call disconnected when Channel 4 reporter Nancy Amons got on the line and said she was calling from a TV station.
Valerie Bridgeforth said she was lucky her family didn't fall for the scam. She said she wants other graduates to hang up if they get a call like this.
"If nobody says anything about it, these people will probably continue to do what they do," she said.
Police have a hard time prosecuting calls like this one because it's difficult to tell where they're coming from. Although the caller ID displayed a 202 area code, which is the area code for Washington, people can "spoof" their caller ID to display whatever number they want.
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