If You Have to Pay for Free Gov't Money, It's Not Free

Everybody would love some money for nothing, especially in this miserable economy.

But did you know you can get some of the government's green for exactly nothing, nada or zilch? You just have to apply, cross your fingers and hope you qualify, then spend it and never worry about paying it back.

"There is free government money out there to be had," FTC Regional Administrator Len Gordon said.

But there is one catch. You can't spend it on high-priced call girls like famous local politicians or athletes. If you are lucky enough to get a government grant, you'd likely have to spend it on school (yuck) or open a business (scary).

"If you're interested in education grants, go to the Department of Education Web site," Gordon said. "There's also a Web site (called) grants.gov that has an awful lot of information about government grants and other programs that can get you some money."

And where there's money, there are opportunist scumbags just waiting to get some of your unearned cash, so Gordon offers some valuable advice.

"One of the things you'll see the scammers try to do is follow the news, so I would expect you'll see 'You've qualified for new stimulus benefits' e-mails and Internet ads," he said. "Resist those, especially if they're asking you to pay a fee up-front, divulging your checking account information or your credit-card information. What you shouldn't do is pay somebody to get your free government money because if you're paying somebody, it's no longer free."

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