While it’s hard to believe that fraudsters would be targeting small business owners during the coronavirus outbreak, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is warning that scammers are doing just that. The OIG is alerting the public about potential fraud schemes related to economic stimulus programs offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
There are, however, things you can do to help prevent becoming a fraud victim when seeking an SBA loan:
Do not share any personal financial information with anyone you have not authorized to contact you. Do not reveal any personal financial information, especially your business tax ID number, Social Security numbers, credit card details, or banking information, in response to an unsolicited call, email, text or letter, including those claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department or the SBA. Scammers can use this information to apply for a loan.
Do not reply to emails without verifying their authenticity. If you are in the process of applying for an SBA loan and receive email correspondence asking for any information, ensure that the referenced application number is consistent with the actual application number. Also verify that the email is actually from an official lender or SBA business email address. Legitimate government entities will have websites and emails that end with .gov such as https://www.sba.gov/
Do not pay any fees. Loans under the economic stimulus programs are set up so that small business owners do not have to pay any fees. Work directly with your bank or nearby eligible SBA lender to avoid falling victim to scams.
Do not fall for fast money promises. If you are contacted by someone promising a faster loan, requiring an upfront payment or offering a high-interest bridge loan, suspect fraud and steer clear. If you need money quickly, consult with your current business loan provider.
Please report suspected fraud to OIG’s Hotline at 800-767-0385 or submit a complaint online. For more fraud information, check out the SBA’s Beware of Scams and Fraud Schemes informational flyer.