Phone scam targets small business owners seeking financial assistance

The BBB says scammers are calling people who have applied for an SBA loan.
The BBB says scammers are calling people who have applied for an SBA loan.
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 6:35 PM CST
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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - A new scam is trying to take advantage of small business owners who have applied for loans from the Small Business Administration.

Whitmore owns Ujima United, a small public health consulting firm. During the pandemic, Whitmore, like so many others, applied for an COVID-19 EIDL loan.

“My consulting business didn’t have as many projects going as it normally did,” said Whitmore. “So I was eligible and applied.”

She says about six months ago she started receiving phone calls from a friendly woman telling her she’d been approved for the loan.

“They would make it sound like I talked to this person already when clearly I hadn’t talked to an individual about my loan yet,” explained Whitmore.

The Better Business Bureau says scammers are looking to take advantage of small business owners looking for information about their loans.

“We know that consumers were filing for loans and business owners were filing for some financial support,” said Tiffany Bernhardt Schultz, the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Director for the Better Business Bureau. “Scammers have found a way to capitalize and to lure their victims in their into their tricks.”

Thankfully, Whitmore was suspicious enough of the phone calls and did her research before calling anyone back, but she sees how easily someone could fall for it.

“I think there’s a good chance that many people would believe them, call back, and provide some information,” said Whitmore. “I know how easy it is for people who are so desperate for that relief to trust that the information they are getting is real.”

She says its upsetting and frustrating that there are people looking to take advantage of small businesses.

“It’s hard enough the way it is during the pandemic for small businesses,” said Whitmore. “To add this potential risk that could jeopardize the already shaky finances of many small businesses is really unfortunate.”

The BBB says the best defense against scams is education.

“Scammers have become very complex,” said Bernhardt Schultz. “They want you to feel that their offer is real. You shouldn’t base your decision on calling them back without doing research.”

If you have a scam you want to report or look up other reported scams, head to the BBB website.

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