Wisconsin Better Business Bureau
Press Release

Scam Alert: Small Businesses, Don’t Fall For This Phony SBA Grant Offer

 

By - Apr 8th, 2020 06:54 am

Milwaukee, Wis. – Small business owners are getting hit with a lot of information and making tough decisions on how to survive the COVID-19 crisis. With all of these messages flooding their inbox, social media, and phone, it’s easy to mistake a scam for a real offer.

How the Scam Works:

An email, text or caller ID appears to be from the U.S. Small Business Administration or an attorney representing the SBA. The “SBA” is offering grants just for small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The application looks simple and may involve completing a short form requesting banking and business information. After being approved, the business owner is asked to pay a “processing fee” up to a couple of thousand dollars.

This is just one example of the type of scam going around.   BBB.org/ScamTracker has received several recent reports about a sophisticated new twist. After the “government agency” contacts business owners about the grant, a friend then reaches out through Facebook. This “friend” claims to have successfully received money from the exact same grant and wants you to know about the program. What a coincidence!  Naturally, the “friend” is not really a friend, but a compromised Facebook account contacting all of your friends on Facebook.

Tips to Spot a Small Business Loan Scam:

  • Look for a website that ends in .gov or .ca: Legitimate government entities will have websites and emails that end with .gov such as www.sba.gov.
  • Do a quick internet search for similar scams: Many government agencies helping small businesses are offering loans and other programs. Be sure to confirm that the offer is real before sharing personal or business information. Find the agency website through an online search (never click on a link in an email) and be sure the program is on their website.
  • Government agencies do not typically text or communicate through social media avenues such as Facebook. Be wary of unsolicited messages.
  • If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee.

Businesses typically don’t receive government grants. In general, the federal government only offers grants to nonprofits, educational institutions, and state and local governments. Learn more at SBA.gov. No matter how convincing the idea sounds and how much your business could use “free” money, don’t fall for it. If you receive an offer that appears to come from the SBA or another state or local government small business agency, research it before sharing any personal information.

For More Information:

Check out the SBA’s website (SBA.gov) for business resources and loans.

For more consumer tips regarding COVID-19, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.  For more business tips, see BBB.org/Covid.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.

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