Checks are going out to more than 22,000 consumers who fell for a scam that Â claimed to offer free government grant money.Â An administrator workingÂ for the Federal Trade Commission began mailing refund checks totalling approximately $1.7 million to 22,764 consumers on Thursday.
The amount of money defrauded consumers receive will vary based on the amount they lost.Â Most consumers will recover nearly 80 percent of their total loss through the Commission's redress program.Â Refund checks must be cashed within 60 days of the date they are received.Â
After extensive litigation, the FTCÂ settledÂ with four of the defendants andÂ won summary judgmentÂ against the remaining 25 individual and corporate defendants.Â
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..."Â
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.Â The defendants also are banned from selling products or services with an automatically recurring fee.
What to do
The FTC's refund administrator in this matter is Gilardi & Co., LLC.Â Consumers who have questions about the refund program or whether they qualify can call Gilardi's hotline number at: Â 1-877-230-7552.Â
The FTC also has aÂ websiteÂ where consumers can obtain general information about the agency's consumer refund program and answers to frequently asked questions.