Jonesboro - Who knows what trouble may lurk in your mailbox! One Jonesboro businesswoman recently received information about a solicitation she thought was legitimate. It promised help in growing her business through a government grant. The whole episode started with Martha Heady's mail received at her Jonesboro health food store she's operated for more than 16 years.
"I got this postcard that said: "would I be interested in a government grant for your business and I thought, of course," said Martha. "I know what government grants are. I just called the 800-number and left a message. And about a week later, someone called me."
That call she said came from The Grant People, an organization which claims to specialize in helping business owners, minorities, and women, all the way to 501(c)3, or non-profit organizations, obtain grant monies. Martha says she spoke with a man going only by the name of "Toby" who talked with her about growing her business.
"You could actually just increase your inventory, you could move to a bigger location--there were multiple things you could do with the money," Martha said as she described what the promised money could be used for.
All of those things sounded good to Martha. So she proceeded with the process.
"So then he called back the next day and said that they had found three people that would be 40-thousand dollars each so that would be 120,000 dollars," said Martha. "I wouldn't have to pay. He said we do get a fee for this which is $5,000. But since you're a small business, we're only going to charge you $1,500 and you won't have to pay until you get the money."
But that's not what showed up on her application form.
"When I got it, it said $5,000 minus $1,500 dollars due now," explained Martha. "And then $3,500 when you receive the money."
Upon learning that she would have to pay money up front, red flags went up in Martha's mind. She realized she needed to get some financial advise, but her CPA was out-of-town. So she just went across the street to her bank.
"I went to Google and typed in the company's name just as it was on the FAX cover sheet, said Rachel Dawson, Loan Officer for Liberty Bank. "The very first thing that came up was the Rip-off Report saying it had been a scam from Las Vegas."
Several complaints show up on the Rip-Off Report regarding the Grant People. We located two different websites on the Internet for the organization. Both are based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. I tried calling The Grant People to see if I could talk to "Toby," the same man who promised assistance to Martha Heady.
All I ever got was a recorded message that the person at this extension was unavailable and to leave a message.
"The Grant People. No one is available..."
The man known simply known as "Toby" has yet to call me or Martha back.
Last week, she told him she didn't money to pay up front for the grants.
"He said, "Well, we have to have the $1,500 up front," explained Marth. "And I said well, I don't have that and then he said, well we take credit cards. I said well I don't have that either. And he said well, when can you have it? i said well, give me a few days. So he was supposed to call back Friday but he didn't."
The important lesson here? Never pay money up front to get money. Government grants are secured through proper documentation, not a payment of money.
Also, "Toby" at The Grant People told Martha that her money would be coming --not from a government grant--but local businesses looking for tax deductions by giving her business money.