Small businesses looking to use the Small Business Administration loans need to watch out on scam artists trying to cash in. Jessica Tharp, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Illinois, says that calls have been coming in from all over the state about phony SBA grant scams.
She says that the fake call, email, or Facebook message is attempting to phish account information from small business owners. “There’s a lot of hype going around about different opportunities businesses have for financial assistance. With this scam, the business owner receives an email, a text message, or even a phone call that appears to be from the U.S. Small Business Administration about a particular grant. In some cases, we’ve had reports of the message saying ‘We need more information from you’ with a link, and then link takes them somewhere where it’s asking for banking information or other personally identifiable information. In other cases, these messages appear to be opportunities to apply. Now, on Monday, this scam has taken on a new twist where these scam artists are using social media to reach out to businesses. They look like its coming from one of their friends on Facebook messaging them saying: ‘Hey, I just got approved for this grant and I think you could get it, too. Click here for the information.’ Again, the link is asking for banking or important personal information.”
Tharp says there are a couple of ways to ensure that you are getting an actual communication from the SBA if you are a small business owner. “There is two primary things that we recommend that you look for. Number one, you want to verify where the information is coming from. Look for things like .gov or .ca to make sure that this opportunity or where you’re applying is truly a government website. The other thing you need to look out for is in all of these scams, we are also getting reports of them saying: ‘We need you to pay a processing fee’ or some kind of expedition fee to process your loan quicker. Keep in mind, these are grants. You don’t have to pay for anything to get them, so if they are asking for you to pay for something or send money, it’s another red flag.”
Tharp says that if you do get a suspected scam communication, the Better Business Bureau has an online tool to report it. “The Better Business Burea has a Scam Tracker online at bbb.org/ScamTracker or you can just give us a call and we will enter all of the data for you. We work with agencies like the attorneys general, the SEC, the FBI’s Internet Crimes Division. We work with all of these agencies to try to put a stop to these scams. The more information we can get from the public about they are asking for or where they are coming from, the better we can do our job.”
The Better Business Bureau has also set up a COVID-19 tip website for small businesses at bbb.org/Coronavirus.