EXCLUSIVE: Fort Wayne woman shares story after losing hundreds in government grant scam

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Fort Wayne woman lost hundreds of dollars after she fell victim to a government grant scam. The Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana and the woman are sharing the story to help prevent other people from falling victim.

“I should’ve known. I should’ve seen the signs, but I didn’t because I’m thinking I’m talking to a person I trust,” said Yvette Cimino.

Yvette received a message through Facebook from a fellow church member, so she thought. In reality, it was a scammer trying to get Yvette to apply for a $50,000 government grant.

“[The scammer] came back really quick, this long list of stuff I had to give to see if I qualified, which was your normal age, your name, your mother’s maiden name, how old I was, and how much my income was.”

The scammer told Yvette she qualified for the grant, but she needed to pay a fee. The fee came in the form of gift cards.

“It went from, I think it was $200 actually, and then it went to a hundred. When it all totaled up, it was to $800.”

Yvette took pictures of the gift cards and sent them to the scammer. The scammer then told her she qualified for the grant. The scammer scheduled a time for the grant to be delivered the next day.

“And I get a text message from Homeland Security. Homeland Security says, “Ok. We have stopped the FedEx truck with your money on it, now we’re going to need 2,000 some-odd dollars for this money to be released.”

Yvette said she couldn’t pay any more money to the scammer. She then contacted her pastor to ask for advice. After discussing the situation, it was realized Yvette fell for a scam.

Her pastor called the Fort Wayne Police Department.

“A lot of times these scammers are not domestically based. So, the Fort Wayne Police Department can’t really do anything about it this…There’s really is research we can do before we put our dollars on the line. And no blame to this consumer because it’s certainly not her fault the scammer took advantage of her,” said Nichole Thomas, Director of Communications at BBB Serving Northern Indiana.

Use BBB’s tips to recognize and avoid this government grant scam: 

  • Free money doesn’t come easy. Scammers would have you believe that government grants are there for the taking. In reality, obtaining a government grant is an involved process, and one where the grant seeker pursues the funds, not the other way around. If someone is actively soliciting you to give you money, that’s a red flag that you are dealing with an imposter. 
  • Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it is not really free. A legitimate government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies can be found at www.grants.gov.  
  • Check for look-alikes. A caller may say he is from the “Federal Grants Administration” – which does not exist. Be sure to do your research and see if an agency or organization is real. Find contact info on your own and call them directly to be sure the person you’ve heard from is not a scammer. 
  • Be careful with unsolicited calls asking for your banking information. Scammers will cold call, asking basic questions to see if you qualify for a grant, and then ask for your banking information saying they need to collect a one-time processing fee and directly deposit your money. Never provide this information to anyone who calls you. 

“I think everybody out there is innocent and nobody would steer me wrong. But they did,” explained Yvette.

Yvette said she’s slowly getting her peace back with her church family. She’s deleted all forms of social media and her guard is up. Her church family did pitch in to cover nearly half of what she lost.