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Published: Saturday, 4/16/2005

Grant scam targets BGSU students

BOWLING GREEN - For a month, Bowling Green State University student Nicole Calvert has received repeated telephone calls from scam artists claiming to represent the American Grant Information Center.

They promise her thousands of dollars in federal grants - if she gives them access to her Social Security number or checking account information and pays a $200 fee.

Right away, Ms. Calvert, 21, thought it sounded fishy. It turns out Ms. Calvert is among at least three BGSU students who have received similar calls from con men guaranteeing federal grant money for access to personal information, prompting university officials to put students on notice that they are being targeted by the scam.

"I didn't know at first," said Ms. Calvert, a junior studying psychology and sociology. "Something was a little fishy. When they asked for my bank account number, that's when I knew something wasn't right."

BGSU Financial Aid Director Craig Cornell said it isn't unusual for scam artists to target students, especially during the spring when financial aid and scholarship notices are in the mail. An e-mail has been sent to all students warning them not to give out personal information. "These people are pretty savvy and they know this is when award letters go out," said Mr. Cornell, noting that one student gave partial information to the caller. "So they make these promises that are baseless."

Mr. Cornell said he is working with local police and the U.S. Department of Education, both of which are looking into the scams. In recent years, similar scams have targeted BGSU students and college students nationwide. "This really has affected our students directly," he said. "This one hits more toward home."

BGSU offered a set of tips for scam victims, which include contacting their banks, reporting the fraud to the national hotline, 1-800-647-8733, and the Federal Trade Commission, and notifying local police.

Ed Magedson, the founder of www.ripoffreport.com, said the grant scheme - which includes variations such as Government Grant Association Program and First National Grant - is among the most widespread scams in the nation. He's received more than 11,000 e-mails about the grant scam in the past month. "There is no such thing as a guaranteed grant," he said. "It takes time and effort to receive a government grant." He added: "Do not give out your information because they are not going to deposit. They are going to withdraw."

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