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As the Small Business Administration resumes its application process for much-needed loans nationwide amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Justice Department is warning the public against scams targeting those desperately seeking relief – and urging them to beware of fraudsters impersonating government authorities, officials said.
Scam artists have begun utilizing grant and loan fraud and phishing scams and have set their sights on unknowing victims willing to hand over their money or personal information to get one step closer to receiving their small business loans.
“Every dollar that these thieves steal is a dollar that’s not putting someone back to work or that’s failing to assist small businesses [to] rebuild,” U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman, who represents the Western District of Kentucky, said in a press release on the topic.
On Friday, federal officials based in Louisville emphasized guidelines put in place by the SBA for those who think they’ve been the victims of such crimes.
First and foremost, the SBA does not initiate contact with potential loan applicants or grant recipients. Therefore, if someone proactively reaches out to you regarding a 7a or Disaster loan or grant, or telling you they can help you get approved – as long as you pay them money – “suspect fraud,” the SBA’s Office of the Inspector General warns in a separate document.
A broker is limited in how much he or she can charge a borrower, capping it at 3 percent for loans worth $50,000 and less, or 2 percent for any loans between $50,000 and $1 million, the guidelines state. Loans over $1 million receive another one-quarter percent.
“If you are in the process of applying for an SBA loan and receive email correspondence asking for PII, ensure that the referenced application number is consistent with the actual application number,” the guidelines state. “These may be attempts to obtain your personally identifiable information (PII), to obtain personal banking access, or to install ransomware/malware on your computer.”
Any emails from the SBA will come from email addresses that end with “sba.gov.”