Payment Protection Program Scams

PPP Scams

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been one of the most important pieces of legislation signed into effect since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The unsecured loans through the Small Business Association (SBA) have enabled our favorite retail shops, restaurants and small businesses to stay afloat, even as the coronavirus devastates sectors of the economy.

Not surprisingly, scammers have been using the PPP for their own purposes, mainly to con struggling business owners out of money. In these scams, they’ll pose as SBA representatives or legitimate lenders to ask for personal information from the borrower. They may also send bogus emails appearing to be from the SBA to lead the victim into downloading malware.

Scammers are getting smarter all the time, but so are we! Here’s how to avoid PPP scams:

Know how PPP loans are processed

Ready to apply for a PPP loan?  Fill it out the SBA PPP loan application, and submit it to an SBA-approved lender. You’ll also need to provide some documents, such as tax returns for 2019, verifiable payroll expense documents, your most recent mortgage or rent statement, etc.

If you’re applying for a Second Draw PPP Loan, you will also need documentation that shows how you have used, or plan to use, your original PPP funds.

After you’ve submitted your application, just sit back and wait for approval.

How can I protect my business from PPP fraud?

Do:

  • Be wary of any individuals demanding immediate payment or asking that you make immediate contact to be eligible for a PPP loan. These are likely scammers.
  • Only use a lender that is accredited by the SBA. You can find all SBA-approved lenders here.
  • Look for the .gov at the end of each email or website allegedly from the SBA or another government entity.
  • Report any suspected scams to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Don’t let those crooks walk free!

 Don’t:

  • Pay for a program that promises to process or expedite a PPP loan request if the organization behind the program is not accredited by the SBA.
  • Share any personal information with an unverified caller or email contact. If it’s personal info, make sure to keep it that way!
  • Click on links or download files from an unfamiliar email address.

Stay safe!

Freedom has made the Paycheck Protection Program available to its current members.  Applicants must have established a business or personal membership with Freedom on or before December 27, 2020.  Visit freedomfcu.org/business/ppp/ for more details. 

Your Turn: Are you a small business owner who has applied for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program? Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU.

 

Beware the Pending Package Scam

Package ScamEveryone loves a surprise package, and scammers are taking the excitement out of that experience by using bogus packages as a cover for a nefarious scam that tricks victims into sharing personal information.

Here’s all you need to know about the pending package scam:

How the scam plays out

In the pending package scam, the victim receives a text message from a contact who is an alleged mail carrier or represents a package-delivery service. The contact tells them that they were unable to deliver a package to the victim’s home. The victim is asked to reply to confirm their identity; however, as soon as they engage with the scammer, they are asked to share personal information or credit card details for scheduling delivery. This, of course, places the victim at risk for identity theft.

Red flags

There are two primary red flags that can warn you about the pending package scam.

First, the original text or email will generally not inform the victim of the identity of the company they represent. The scammer will only claim to be an employee of a mail or package-delivery service, but will not verify if they work for UPS, FedEx or another legitimate organization. However, this is not always the case.

Second, the scammers don’t always check if the victim actually has a package in transit. They’ll either assume the victim has recently ordered something online or they’ll claim a friend or family member has sent a surprise gift. If you know that neither of these is true, you can be on the alert for a possible scam.

Third, the text message may address you by the wrong name.  Scammers may try to take advantage of your good conscience by baiting you into clicking a malicious link to report that they have reached the wrong individual.

Don’t get scammed! 

Take these precautions to avoid being the next victim of a pending package scam:

  • Be wary of unsolicited communications. Your mail carrier and package delivery services will never contact you via text message. If a package cannot be delivered for any reason, they will usually leave a note on the door.
  • Track all incoming packages. After placing an order for an item, record the tracking number for the package so you can easily verify its whereabouts. This way, you can quickly confirm the authenticity of any suspicious texts, emails or phone calls about your package.
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. Be super-wary when asked to share sensitive information via text. If you suspect fraud, end the conversation immediately and do not engage further.
  • Never click on links in unsolicited text messages. Links in text messages can download malware onto your computer or device.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam, it’s important not to engage with the scammer. Delete any suspicious text messages and block the number of the contact. You can also report the scam at FTC.gov .

Your turn: How do you determine if you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam? Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. @FreedomFedCU

 

Beware of Coronavirus Scams

Coronavirus ScamsScammers are notorious for capitalizing on fear, and the coronavirus outbreak is no exception. Showing an appalling lack of the most basic morals, scammers have set up fake websites, bogus funding collections and more in an effort to trick the fearful and unsuspecting out of their money.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published on its website a warning against email scams connected to the coronavirus. The agency claims it has received reports from around the world about phishing attempts mentioning coronavirus on an almost daily basis.

Closer to home, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning against a surge in coronavirus scams, which are being executed with surprising sophistication, so they may be difficult for even the keenest of eyes to spot.

The best weapons against these scams are awareness and education. When people know about circulating scams and how to identify them, they’re already several steps ahead of the scammers. Here’s all you need to know about coronavirus-related scams.

How the scams play out

There are several scams exploiting the fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus. Here are some of the most prevalent:

The fake funding scam

In this scam, victims receive bogus emails, text messages or social media posts asking them to donate money to a research team that is supposedly on the verge of developing a drug to treat COVID-19. Others claim they are nearing a vaccine for immunizing the population against the virus. There have also been ads circulating on the internet with similar requests. Unfortunately, nearly all of these are fakes, and any money donated to these “funds” will help line the scammers’ pockets.

The bogus health agency

There is so much conflicting information on the coronavirus that it’s really a no-brainer that scammers are exploiting the confusion. Scammers are sending out alerts appearing to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the WHO; however, they’re actually created by the scammers. These emails sport the logo of the agencies that allegedly sent them, and the URL is similar to those of the agencies as well. Some scammers will even invent their own “health agency,” such as “The Health Department,” taking care to evoke authenticity with bogus contact information and logos.

Victims who don’t know better will believe these missives are sent by legitimate agencies. While some of these emails and posts may actually provide useful information, they often also spread misinformation to promote fear-mongering, such as nonexistent local diagnoses of the virus. Even worse, they infect the victims’ computers with malware which is then used to scrape personal information off the infected devices.

The phony purchase order

Scammers are hacking the computer systems at medical treatment centers and obtaining information about outstanding orders for face masks and other supplies. The scammers then send the buyer a phony purchase order listing the requested supplies and asking for payment. The employee at the treatment center wires payment directly into the scammer’s account. Unfortunately, they’ll have to pay the bill again when contacted by the legitimate supplier.

Preventing scams

Basic preventative measures can keep scammers from making you their next target.

As always, it’s important to keep the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer up to date, and to strengthen the security settings on all of your devices.

Practice responsible browsing when online. Never download an attachment from an unknown source or click on links embedded in an email or social media post from an unknown individual. Don’t share sensitive information online, either. If you’re unsure about a website’s authenticity, check the URL and look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” indicating the site is secure.

Finally, it’s a good idea to stay updated on the latest news about the coronavirus to avoid falling prey to misinformation. Check the actual CDC and WHO websites for the latest updates. You can donate funds toward research on these sites as well.

Spotting the scams

Scammers give themselves away when they ask for payment via specific means, including a wire transfer or prepaid gift card. Scams are also easily spotted by claims of urgency, such as “Act now!” Another giveaway is poor writing skills, including grammatical errors, awkward syntax and misspelled words. In the coronavirus scams, “Breaking information” alerts appearing to be from health agencies are another sign of a scam.

You can keep yourself safe from the coronavirus by practicing good hygiene habits and avoid coronavirus scams by practicing healthy internet usage. Keep yourself in the know about the latest developments.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a coronavirus scam? Tell us about it in the comments.