scam-watch-government-grants-chris-johnson-free-moneyDon’t fall prey to a grant scam! Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald, here are some helpful tips brought to you from the Australian government.

When searching for government grants for your business, it’s important to be careful of websites that promise that you will secure a grant in exchange for you paying a fee to release the funds.

Here are some common questions from Australian business owners about avoiding business grant scams, but this information is useful for all Australians to read and heed.

Do I need to pay a fee to access or apply for grants?

You should also be careful of websites who charge a fee to lodge your grant application. In most cases, it will be free of charge if you apply for the grant directly through the official source.

How do I tell if a website is officially affiliated with the government?

Some websites offering grant related services can make it seem like they are officially affiliated with the government, when they are not.

They may use official looking images, logos and web addresses to mislead you. The ways to determine whether a website is officially affiliated with the government include:

  • Checking the URL of the website (only Australian government websites will have the ‘.gov.au’ extension).
  • Carefully inspecting the website for any small or hidden disclaimers advising that they are not affiliated with government within the site content, site header, or site footer.
  • Consulting a business advisor, such as a Business Enterprise Centre or your accountant, about the legitimacy of the site.

Aside from websites, are there other grant related scams I should be aware of?

In the past, the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) have reported on scammers that actively contacted small businesses to advise them that they have been successful in receiving a grant. The scammers requested a fee to release the grant funds, but businesses didn’t receive anything after paying the fee.

Government grants providers do not cold call people to offer grants; they’re always assessed based on the merit of your grant application.

How do I protect my business from grant related scams?

To best protect your business from grant related scams, you should keep these points in mind when looking for, or approached with, grant related services:

  • All government grant decisions are based on merit – you can’t pay for special access.
  • If you want to use the services of a third party to help you prepare your grant application, make sure you choose a reputable service.
  • The government will not call you to let you know about grants you may be eligible for.
  • The government does not accept payments to release grant funds via wire transfer.
  • Be suspicious of any requests asking for your bank account details in return for offers of money.

You can find more at business.gov.au. An addition resource is SCAMwatch, a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid, and report scams. Visit them at http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/

Protect yourself and listen to your instincts regarding whether something seems to be too good to be true. If you have any doubt, check with an agency official for advice. They don’t want to see you lose your money any more than you do.