The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) contained not only provisions for payments to millions of citizens, but also included a number of provisions for financial assistance to small businesses. Many small businesses have suffered tremendously as a result of the Coronavirus and are eager to obtain whatever measure of critical financial relief they can get from the federal government. Unfortunately, recognizing this desperation, despicable scammers are targeting small businesses with a variety of scams intended to further harm these businesses which are already hurting.
Some of the scams involve businesses being called on the phone or receiving emails or text messages from the Small Business Administration (SBA) soliciting the businesses to participate in various financial assistance programs. These scammers, posing as government employees will then either ask for personal information that can be used for purposes of identity theft or ask for processing fees for loans or other programs that never provide any financial relief.
In other instances, companies that have filed for loans or other financial relief with the SBA are asked in emails from scammers, posing as government or bank officials, for personal information that actually would be consistent with the information required by the SBA to process these financial assistance applications, but when the email comes from a scammer, you end up providing the information to a scammer who then uses it for purposes of identity theft.
Finally, some businesses are being contacted by scammers promising to get fast approval of SBA loans, but charge illegal fees and never provide the assistance they promise.
Even before the CARES Act was passed, the SBA provided a number of financing programs. Now, the CARES Act has authorized new programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program which provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees through a temporary expansion of the SBA’s 7(a) loan program, a $10,000 loan advance program, SBA Express Bridge Loans for as much as $25,000 and the SBA Debt Relief program for already existing SBA loans.
The most important thing to remember in order to avoid these scams is that the SBA will never contact any business to solicit an SBA loan by email, phone, text message or regular mail. Anyone contacting you who tells you that he or she is an SBA employee seeking to enroll you in a financial assistance program is a scammer. Regardless of how legitimate appearing any letter or email may be, it is easy to copy an official logo on to an email or letter.
The SBA limits the fees a broker can charge a borrower to 3% for loans of $50,000 or less and 2% for loans $50,000 to $1,000,000 with an additional 1/4% on amounts over $1,000,000. You also should be avoid anyone asking for advance payments to help you procure an SBA loan or who is offering to loan you money through a high interest bridge loan until your SBA loan is processed.
If you have already applied for an SBA loan, you may get an email asking for personal information as a part of the application process, however, scammers are aware that many businesses are seeking such loans and they are contacting small businesses posing as SBA representatives asking for this information. The best way to avoid giving this information to a scammer is to make sure that the email being sent to you includes the application number of your application for an SBA loan. Scammers would not have this information. Also make sure the email address for any communications you receive purporting to be from the SBA end in sba.gov.
If you have questions about SBA loans and other financial assistance programs you can contact the SBA by phone at 800-659-2955 or by email at email@example.com.
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