Recent coronavirus-related scams are targeting small businesses. It starts with emails claiming to be from the “Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance” stating the business is eligible for a loan up to $250,000. The email then asks for personal information such as date of birth and social security number.
Here are the red flags of a COVID-related scam targeting small businesses:
- Unexpected emails or phone calls claiming to be from the IRS, Social Security Administration or Small Business Administration. The FTC warns about government imposter scams.
- Automatic eligibility for big loans. Real lenders never do this.
- Requests for date of birth and social security number. This is a tip-off that the sender is trying to steal personal information.
Phishing attempts aren’t the only scam business owners are reporting. Some victims report having applied for loans through websites claiming to be part of the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which has been extended to December 31, 2021. Others report being contacted to repay loans which fraudsters took out in their name.
Here are steps to protect ourselves and our customers from fraud targeting small businesses:
- Check credit reports. The worst time to learn someone has taken out a loan in your name is when you’re applying for a loan yourself. Credit reports can be checked at www.annualcreditreport.com, the authorized source for the free reports consumers are guaranteed by law. In addition, the three major credit bureaus are offering free weekly online reports to consumers through April 2021. If you’re not in the market for credit or a loan, freezing your credit offers a free extra measure of protection.
- Look for reliable sources of information. Don’t click links from unsolicited emails and be careful with online search engine results. Scammers often bait their online traps with sound-alike names and URLs, phony endorsements, and professional-looking websites. For small business owners looking for COVID-relief programs, always start at www.sba.gov, the official site of the Small Business Administration. Or reach out to a trusted financial institution in your community.
- Check out lenders before sharing personal information. Scammers impersonating lenders have the perfect excuse to request personal information. Don’t leave a trail of personal information exposed by filling out applications online with lenders you don’t know. Investigate lenders first. If you spot something suspicious, file a report at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
If you believe you or another customer have fallen victim to fraud, contact The Village Bank immediately at 617-969-4300.