When searching for government grants for your business, it’s important to be careful of websites that offer grant related services for a fee.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning small business operators and entrepreneurs to beware of unauthorised websites offering easy access to government grants.
Do I need to pay a fee to access or apply for grants?
Some websites are not lending a helping hand to small businesses and will charge a fee to access government grants which can be normally accessed for free. In other cases the small business may pay the fee only to find they are not eligible for a particular grant.
All available government grants can be freely accessed through official government sources, such as our Grants & Assistance Finder.
You should be careful of websites who charge a fee to lodge your grant application. In most cases, it will be free of charge if you apply for the grant directly through the official source.
How do I tell if a website is officially affiliated with the government?
The ACCC is concerned that some overseas-based websites falsely give the impression that they are endorsed by the Australian Government.
Some websites offering grant related services can make it seem like they are officially affiliated with the government, when they are not. They may use official looking images, logos and web addresses to mislead you.
Ways to determine whether a website is officially affiliated with the government include:
- checking the URL of the website (only Australian government websites will have the ‘.gov.au’ extension).
- carefully inspect the website for any small or hidden disclaimers advising that they are not affiliated with government within the site content, site header or site footer.
- consulting a business advisor, such as a Business Enterprise Centre or your accountant, about the legitimacy of the site.
The Australian Business Funding Centre (ABFC) www.australiangovernmentgrants.org is an example of a website which looks like it has some kind of Australian Government affiliation or official status.
The ABFC and other websites present educational material about government grant programs and, in some cases, videos or news releases showcasing successful grant recipients in a manner which suggests that the website is a service provided or endorsed by the Australian Government.
A closer inspection of such websites may reveal disclaimers acknowledging no affiliation with the government.
The ACCC is concerned that such disclaimers can be easily overlooked especially by people who are more comfortable calling the phone numbers or using the other contact points which are displayed on more prominent parts of the webpage.
Aside from websites, are there other grant related scams I should be aware of?
In the past, the ACCC have reported on scammers that actively contacted small businesses to advise them that they have been successful in receiving a grant. The scammers requested a fee to release the grant funds, but businesses didn’t receive anything after paying the fee.
Government grants providers do not cold call people to offer grants; they’re always assessed based on the merit of your grant application.
How do I protect my business from grant related scams?
To best protect your business from grant related scams, you should keep these points in mind when looking for, or approached with, grant related services:
- All government grant decisions are based on merit – you can’t pay for special access.
- If you want to use the services of a third-party to help you prepare your grant application, make sure you choose a reputable service.
- The government will not call you to let you know about grants you may be eligible for.
- The government does not accept payments to release grant funds via “wire transfer”.
- Be suspicious of any requests asking for your bank account details in return for offers of money.
Anyone looking for small business grants should note that the Australian Government provides grant money to eligible operators and nobody should be discouraged from taking advantage of these programs.