An administrator working for the Federal Trade Commission today began mailing refund checks totalling approximately $1.7 million to 22,764 consumers who were defrauded by a group that used websites to falsely claim they could help consumers get free government grant money.
After extensive litigation, the FTC settled with four of the defendants and won summary judgment against the remaining 25 individual and corporate defendants. According to the FTC, the website operators sold many products online, including Grant Connect, which they described as a “unique consumer-friendly US government grant program that delivers all of the tools for the consumer to search multiple databases, write grant proposals, and deliver polished plans…” The websites also used images of the President and the American flag in an attempt to convince consumers that they were affiliated with the U.S. government, which they were not.
Both the settlement and the summary judgment order ban the defendants from selling grant-related products, among other things. The defendants also are banned from selling products or services with an automatically recurring fee.
The amount of money defrauded consumers receive will vary based on the amount they lost. Most consumers will recover nearly 80 percent of their total loss through the Commission’s redress program. Refund checks must be cashed within 60 days of the date they are received.
The FTC’s refund administrator in this matter is Gilardi & Co., LLC. Consumers who have questions about the refund program or whether they qualify can call Gilardi’s hotline number at: 1-877-230-7552. The FTC also has a website where consumers can obtain general information about the agency’s consumer refund program and answers to frequently asked questions.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.