One of the biggest challenges we’re seeing as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic is one of the oldest – scams.
Just like the age-old IRS scams that creep up every year, the lure of easy money and desperate people create a fertile environment for opportunists. Unfortunately, COVID-19, along with so much incorrect, dated, or unsubstantiated “stimulus” information for small businesses has made it far too easy for scammers to seize personal and business information.
To be honest, there are a lot of reasons for this that aren’t worth getting into, but since none of us has ever navigated this type of environment, so my advice is simple – the rules have never changed when it comes to keeping your personal and business data safe…
The first thing to understand is this: the situation for stimulus funding for small businesses affected by the economic shutdown has changed at least four times.
Data that was “current” and “accurate” less than a month ago is ancient history now!
In fact, as of April 22 (the last date we have data for), the Federal Trade Commission had reported over 22,000 complaints with almost half of those stating they had lost money due to a scam.
The most popular scam for businesses so far seem to be generated from text messages and “robocalls” that are referencing either the SBA loan program or the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) programs. Inevitably, these messages reference a bogus website the business owner should visit to begin the loan process. In the case of text messages, the link is included in the text and that opens to a bogus site that, once opened, can actually begin seizing data right then.
DON’T OPEN THE LINK until you can verify the sender. Again, these are very fluid times, so rather than give out information that might be irrelevant in less than a week, let me simply explain it like this…
Perhaps 90% of SBA and PPP programs will originate either from YOU creating an application online with the SBA or from your bank or other financial institution contacting you via email.
Once you have begun that process, then those entities may continue the process via phone or email, but to the best of my team’s research, no qualified government or banking agency is doing so at this time.
To give one example, one hoax text message that has been used references the “FCC Financial Care Center.” The Federal Communications Commission has nothing to do with any stimulus monies that are available to business owners.
It’s a crazy time and aside from staying as safe as you can be with respect to your health, if you have any questions at all about potential scams, please reach out to the authorities or even my team to let us make sure your data and information is protected!