POOR people and victims of natural disasters who cannot read and write are the targets of con artists trying to make money in exchange for "processing" application forms for house repair grants.
And many of the victims are from South Trinidad areas, including Penal, Fyzabad and Barrackpore.
A newspaper advertisement placed by the National Self Help Commission and published yesterday advised the public not to make any payments to people offering assistance for processing services, specifically the Minor Repair Reconstruction Grant and the Community Infrastructure Development Programme.
A senior official at the Commission stated that the problem has been occurring for years.
"They (tricksters) have been taking the application forms, processing it for individuals who are in crisis and charging a processing fee. They just look at people who are living in extreme poverty, extreme social conditions, and there are cases where they have actually taken a percentage of the allocation of the grant on the basis that they would have had it processed for victims,"the official said.
He said any person can have access to an application form from any local councillor, Member of Parliament, any of the Commission's office, or the Web.
The official said, "When an application form comes to one of the offices, it is allocated to one of the officers assigned to different areas and that officer is responsible for visiting and evaluating and making recommendations."
He said one cannot tell by looking at the form if it was one filled out by an unauthorised person.
" It is not until we visit or the people who paid come to the office and indicate that they paid a processing fee that we will know," he said.
He said the Commission was aware of a person from Chaguanas charging people a fee and that person had been warned.
The official said there was little else they could have done, because there was no evidence.