Is the President offering free money? No, but some believe it

HARTLAND (WITI) -- Is the President offering free money? No, but some people are being told that and are being tricked into paying fees on money that doesn't exist.

Melanie Knigge didn't know how many warnings were on the internet about a phone call she received from a company calling itself "USA Government Grants."

"There are more than I would have anticipated," she says as she scrolls through one warning website after another.

The caller offered Melanie $10,000, and said the source was someone she could trust.

"President Obama has free money to give away for homeowners just like you," she says she was told.  "And I thought 'okay, let's hear just how much free money I'm going to get!'"

But when Melanie asked for more information and time to think about it, the caller got pushy.

"'We'll send you a check right to your account,'" Melanie says the called told her, "and I kinda thought 'no, I don't think you're going to.'"

Even though Melanie thought the company's website looked legitimate, she didn't feel right and hung up - the right move, according to the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau.

"It's a typical, classic case of an organization that looks to be a state or federal agency and they are not," says BBB President Randall Hoth.

FOX6's Contact 6 told Hoth about Melanie's experience, and he was familiar with this company's kind of offer.

"It's also promising that it will send you a list of grants that you can apply for $12.95 or you can apply for a grant for $299," he explains.  "Never pay any money upfront for someone calling and offering a grant."

Hoth says the company is based in New York, but something about its address didn't seem quite right.

"The New York Better Business Bureau actually looked at the address that's being claimed on these various websites," Hoth explains, "and this company is not listed as being in that building."

The NY BBB actually went to the physical address the day we asked about "USA Government Grants" and found a clothing store and residential apartment building where this so-called "government grant" office is supposed to be -- reassuring Melanie she made the right decision.

"I just hate to see people getting ripped off," Melanie says, "and I think that's what's happening.  And too many people think they're getting free money."

So what can you do to try to avoid getting these kinds of calls?  Get your name on the National Do Not Call Registry - then file complaints if you continue to get unwanted calls.