TL;DR: Growwithgrants.com is a scam. Avoid.
Every once in a while, when we explain tax credits to our clients, they feel it seems too good to be true and they need some external validation to be sure we’re not just pulling their leg.
I’ve had a client tell me that when they paid the setup fee (back when we still had setup fees), they expected us to just vanish with the £1,200 and never be seen again. Later, during the process, they asked whether we might be able to get 10% of the amount we were claiming. When I said we would get 100% of it, they seemed polite but in some disbelief.
A couple of months later, when they received £500k into their bank account, they finally saw that it was for real.
However, some “too good to be true” offers are indeed scams. Very recently, a new such scam has appeared on the scene. Some of our clients and hopefully-soon-to-be-client have been contacted by an organisation calling itself “Grow with Grants”, whose website is Growwithgrants.com (I won’t be linking to it so they don’t get any search engine mojo). The pitch is almost laughable:
The mark (perhaps you!) is called out of the blue, and after a 20-minute conversation, they let you know that you have qualified for a grant in the tens of thousands (or, presumably, whatever amount you’re looking for!), and that they will send them to you just as soon as you fill out this here paperwork… and send in the £179 admin fee. If that wasn’t enough, they also advise you that if you don’t pay up within a few days, the offer will expire and the grant will go to someone else! Oh no!
Now, some of you dear readers will be chuckling in your beards (or moustaches, or entirely beardless chins), recognising the classic “advance fee fraud” pioneered by business model innovators in Nigeria, also known as the 419 scam. “You’ve won the lottery! Just send us the admin fee and all these millions will be yours!”
But remember, the people being targeted are either businesses desperate for cash (and when you’re desperate, it’s much easier to believe things that are too good to be true) or inexperienced new entrepreneurs (some of whom really are clueless, but don’t deserved to be scammed outright if these scumbags call them).
So, what do you do if you get a call from Growwithgrants.com (or from anyone who claims you’ve just qualified for some free money, available just as soon as you pay this advance fee)? Well, quite simply, just ignore them, just as you would ignore an email from a Nigerian prince looking for help offloading the millions inherited from his father who was murdered by militias, etc…
Whatever you do, don’t pay the £179. Only one thing will happen: much like in other advance fee fraud scams, you will self-identify as an easy mark, and they will enthusiastically progress your application, only to be hit by an unfortunate obstacle that will require more money to resolve. If you pay that, there will surely be another obstacle, and another, etc. Until when? Until you run out of money or wisen up, of course.
If you needed any objective evidence that the site is a scam (other than the common sense analysis above), note that although it claims to be “established in 1962”, Growwithgrants.com was only registered on 29th of June this year (2014) – we never heard of it until this week, either. It also claims that rather than accessing government grants, it gets its money from “private individual, companies and investors”. Have a quick think and see if you can identify anyone you know who has money and is willing to just give it away to random businesses at zero interest and no guarantee or security. Finally, it’s worth noting that although the company they claim to be (“Grants Limited”, registered in Dublin as IE019585) was indeed registered in 1962, there is no guarantee that that company even knows about the “growwithgrants” website, the company is listed on Duedil as not trading and, importantly, it’s registered in Ireland (why, then would it give grants to UK companies?).
In other words: Growwithgrants.com is an obvious scam. Avoid.
So how can I tell the difference?
Although there are several factors that contribute to determining that growwithgrants.com is a scam, many overlap with features of actual, real providers. For example, we used to have setup fees – so the presence of an upfront fee is not by itself a killer. We also do provide, effectively, “free money”, so the mere offering of money is not, again, a killer factor. Occasionally, there is an HMRC deadline that is looming, so although tax credits can still be obtained for later years, occasionally we do find ourselves telling the client that they need to make a decision quickly.
Here are, however, the killer signs:
- There is no good reason why anyone would provide that money: HMRC provides the money for R&D Tax Credits because they’re part of the government and it’s a government incentive to help technology businesses. Growwithgrants claim that private entities provide this no-strings-attached funding and never justify why anyone would do such a thing (because it’s not). Think about it critically, and you will see that a private entity would never risk their money in such a way.
- Although there are plenty of “testimonials” on Growwithgrants’ website, they are all anonymous. If in doubt, always ask to be introduced to someone at a company in your industry or that you’ve heard about. The lack of clients willing to come forward in a 52-year-old company is a huge red flag. Make sure the person you’re introduced to is actually from that company by getting introduced to them by email.
- Check for things that don’t fit, such as if the business claims to be registered 52 years ago but the website was only registered in 2014 – why would that be?
- Businesses that give money know that trust is one of the biggest barriers to acquiring new clients. If they don’t list some people willing to associate their names with the business, they’re probably scammers. If they do, bear in mind these could be assumed identities. We’ve encountered cases where someone took on the name of another person who had convincing credentials – but that other person was based in the US. Most people will handwave that confusion away. If you’re being offered a deal that sounds too good to be true, don’t let that kind of little hint slip by unnoticed.
I hope this article helps you to avoid this and other similar scams.