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COVID-19 Relief Programs: FTC Guidance On Avoiding The Scams

by Glenn E. Davis

The second major rounds of small business and personal relief programs are open for business, and the demand remains very high.  In response to the breathtaking impact on the economy during the pandemic, hundreds of billions of federal aid dollars are moving through loans in the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. This chaotic and complicated situation is too much for criminals to resist--and they are not. Elaborate and simple fraud schemes capitalize on the flurry of data, detailed loan applications and forms, and often conflicting relief program news reports to gain surreptitious access to sensitive business information.  Scammers are after bank account and routing numbers, employees’ Social Security numbers, personal identifying information, and your business and personal funds.

You can fight back with some common-sense advice from the Federal Trade Commission staff.  In their 4/29/20 Business Release, the FTC offers some useful “do’s” and “don’ts” you can use to train you people to avoid falling victim to the allure of scammers taking advantage of the race for approval and uncertainties in the small business loan programs.

  DO:

DON’T:

  • Don’t pay in advance for information. All the information from the SBA is free at sba.gov/coronavirus.
  • Don’t pay in advance for a government loan. You don’t have to pay up front to get an SBA loan.
  • Don’t give your information to someone who calls, emails, or texts you out of the blue. The SBA won’t call unsolicitedly to find out information about you or your business or to ask you to apply for a loan. The SBA is not going to send you emails or text messages asking for sensitive information. If you get an email or text like this, delete it. It’s a scam.
  • Don’t apply for a loan without verifying the lender. Only SBA-authorized lenders can provide PPP loans, and other loans may be available through SBA directly. To find an SBA-authorized lender in your area, use this SBA tool.
  • Don’t click on links or reply to emails or text messages from someone you don’t know. If you click on the links, you could download malware to your computer or device or be connected to a scammer or hacker.”

The odds are good that you will encounter spoofed emails and bogus calls trying to steal your information or your money. If you think you have encountered a scam, contact the FTC and let them know at ftc.gov/complaint.

Some other resources:

HeplerBroom LLC COVID-19 Response

HeplerBroom has been diligently working on its response and continuity plan to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep the health and safety of our employees, their families, and our clients as our top priority.

To help ensure everyone's continued health and well-being, effective March 17, 2020, all attorneys and staff began working remotely. We continue to assess the situation and will return to our physical offices when appropriate.

To ensure this, the firm has identified essential personnel in each office who will make certain that critical firm functions that cannot be done remotely continue to be handled. We have put in place protocol for those essential personnel to make sure they are keeping healthy per the CDC cleaning and sanitizing recommendations. All teams have back-up personnel and procedures that we will follow to make sure all deadlines are met and clients receive the same great service and work product that we have always been proud to provide.

HeplerBroom's IT department has been working hard to make sure all remote employees are set up with equipment and access from home to limit disruption to our clients. Maintaining security and confidentiality has remained, and will continue to remain, at the forefront of all processes and procedures, at all levels throughout the firm.

The firm has created emergency communication measures to communicate any changes to this plan to employees and are communicating on a regular basis with any and all new resources and helpful information during this uncertain time.

During these fluid and unpredictable times, HeplerBroom will continue its commitment to great service and results for our clients, all while keeping safe and healthy.

Wishing you and your families good health.

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