In a previous article, I told you how some questionable companies may try to convince you that you have automatically been awarded a grant, even though you hadn’t applied for one. Some people were interested to find out more, including what to watch out for and who might be targeted. We’ll take a look at what some of the possible signs are that tell you to beware, and also see whether you may be vulnerable to being targeted.

First, here’s a quick recap of the previous article, in case you haven’t had a chance to read it yet. The bottom line was that you don’t get government grants that you haven’t applied for, so if someone tells you have, the offer is unlikely to be legitimate.

Now, here are some of the various angles used to justify why you’d suddenly be offered a government grant out of the blue. They sound silly, except that sometimes people do fall for them. You’ll be told that the government wants to give you a grant because “your phone number was selected at random,” that “100 people in your city were chosen to get a grant,” “because you’ve been good about never having filed bankruptcy,” or that it’s “a reward for your patriotism.”

You may be contacted by phone, mail, or email, or even be enticed to click on a banner advertisement you see on the Internet. The people promising the government grants may either try everyone, or else may target groups they may see as more susceptible, such as older people, who grew up in a more trusting time; lower-income people, who may desperately need and want the government grant they’ve been promised; or newcomers to a country, who may be unfamiliar with the workings of their new government.

The people who contact you may claim to be from either a government agency or department that actually exists, or from a made-up one. In the United States, the calls will sometimes come from the non-existent “US Department of Government Grants.”

Here are three of the biggest red flags, though, that should set off alarm bells. The first is if you’re asked for personal information, such as (depending upon where you are) a Social Security Number, Social Insurance Number, an NI Number, or similar identification that is used in your country. Why wouldn’t someone purportedly from the government already know it?

The second warning sign is if you’re asked to pay any money (and you will be). You don’t have to pay money to receive government grants. (Side note: There may be some government business loans that have fees, such as those from the Small Business Administration in the US. But’s that different because it’s fully disclosed, it’s rolled into the loan, and you know who you’re dealing with.) The typical scenario with the more questionable companies is that they would tell you that you have to wire money, give them access to your checking account, or provide a credit card number. Pay a couple of hundred now, and you’ll receive many thousands very soon thereafter, they promise. The money you pay will be gone without any real chance of getting it back, and additional withdrawals and charges may be made, as well.

The third red flag is an assurance that the grant is “already awarded” or “guaranteed.” Grants aren’t guaranteed or handed out for no apparent purpose (or for a silly purpose, such as those listed earlier).

One mistake most of us make is assuming that we’d never fall for a scam. However, I have some students who said that, before they began working with me, they had been enticed by one of these offers. Having worked with these students, I know they aren’t at all dumb or naïve, and some are even successful businesspeople. How does it happen, then? Well, we all wish for a windfall of cash and can have our moments of weakness, hoping the promises are true.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with letting your heart wish for good things like unexpected money, but always let your head have the veto power so that you don’t let yourself get fooled. If an offer has any of the red flags I mentioned, or just otherwise doesn’t feel quite right, then listen to your instincts and steer clear.