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Fake government grants: How to avoid scams

As small business numbers increase and more entrepreneurs look for capital, a growing amount of organisations claiming to be affiliated with the Government are looking to take your money. 

SMEs and entrepreneurs are being drawn to groups offering easy access to government grants, often charging a fee in return for information that can be accessed freely through official Government sources.

Here are some points that may help you avoid being scammed or paying unnecessary fees:

  • Suspect websites.

Those searching the Internet for information on grants should be aware that websites are using words such as ‘government’ in their titles and URLs to appear as though they are associated with the Australian Government.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) also warns of websites that contain videos or news depicting successful grant recipients. Further inspection of these reports sometimes reveals these grants were in no way obtained by the website, let alone with the endorsement of the Government.

Some websites have disclaimers pointing out that they are not connected to the Government. This is all well and good, but problems can arise when disclaimers are placed in locations that can be easily overlooked, such as headers or footers.

A simple thing to remember is that official Government websites end in ‘.gov.au’ or ‘edu.au’.

As stated on internetbasics.gov.au:

You’ll notice lots of different variations on website addresses for non-government websites. These can include ‘.com’, ‘.com.au’, ‘.org’, ‘.org.au’ and other combinations, but Australian Government websites will always end in .gov.au, or ‘.edu.au’.

  • Strange calls.

It is not just the Internet where caution should be placed. Some organisations, posing as government departments and banks, are calling home phones and mobile phones, publically listed and private, with offers relating to government grants.

If you receive a call relating to a grant that you did not apply for, it’s best to hang up. scamwatch.gov.au states that the Australian Government does not place cold calls offering grants and information as to what grants you are eligible for.

  • Paying for free information.

Some companies may charge fees for services that you are in a position to do for free.

Firstly, you should be aware that paying for any sort of “special access” to grants would be a waste of money. Government grants are primarily decided on the merit of your application.

Some companies charging to help you with your application may be legitimate, establishing themselves as more of a third party service. If you decide to use consultancy firms such as these, be sure to have thoroughly researched the company first and be confident that you are not able to go through with the application steps on your own.

Official information on grants is available freely at www.grantslink.gov.au or via www.business.gov.au.

If you believe you have been scammed: 

– Contact your financial service or bank immediately if you believe you have given out your details to a scammer.

– You are able to report a scam to the ACCC via their report a scam page or by calling 1300 795 995.