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Farmers targeted in USDA scam calls

Farmers targeted in USDA scam calls

Producers are offered grant money from a non-existent program

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Scammers are calling farmers and promoting fake USDA grant money in the hopes of receiving sensitive banking information.

Producers in Wisconsin have received calls that offer grants from the USDA’s Federal Crop Registration Program, which doesn’t exist.

The scammers leave messages with a phone number and encourage growers to call back within three days to receive the grant.

“If you receive this message, take no further action,” Jerad Albracht, communications specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said in a March 30 statement. “The USDA will not call you and offer grant money.”

Scammers generally follow a script, he added.

They will offer congratulations for eligibility before asking for checking account information, so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account” or so you can pay a one-time “processing fee.”

“You will never see the grant they promise; they will disappear with your money,” he said in the statement.

While only some farmers have come forward, officials wanted to be proactive in their approach.

“We’ve received a few reports from farmers receiving these kinds of calls,” Michelle Reinen, director with the Bureau of Consumer Protection, told Farms.com today. “This is just the tipping point but we wanted to get the word out there because many farmers won’t report getting these calls.”

Farms.com has reached out to other state agricultural departments to determine if other producers have received similar messages. Farms.com has also contacted the USDA for information on how its staff are managing the situation.

Consider these helpful tips for identifying government grant scams.

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