Protect Your Business From COVID-19 Scams
Unfortunately, it is during times of great economic, business, and social uncertainty that we see scams and fraud proliferate and prey on our vulnerabilities. In the age of COVID-19, cyber scams have increased in both frequency and duplicity. Global cyber security experts report a 600 to 800% increase in the number of cyber attacks over the past few weeks, and tens of thousands of COVID-19 related fraudulent websites and mobile applications have emerged.
Scammers see a much larger pool of potentially desperate prey, with one group particularly vulnerable: small businesses.
Small businesses face challenges like never before, as forces beyond their control upend the economy and their ability to serve existing customers and grow their companies. These owners are making critical decisions every day: Should we reopen when the state or city lifts restrictions? How will we keep our employees, our customers, and ourselves safe when we do open? How do we apply for financial hardship programs and relief from the CARES Act?
Amid all of these challenges and weighty decisions is where scammers strike, wreaking havoc when anxiety is already at an all-time high. It is more crucial than ever that small business owners and entrepreneurs remain vigilant and safeguard themselves against preventable scam threats.
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Here is what you need to know.
Scrutinize the source of the communication
Remember the age-old axiom: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” This is especially true when it concerns offers of “free government grants” and emails promising “fast and guaranteed approval for your loan today.”
Scammers are posing as financial services companies, legal firms, credit bureaus, and more. Some even pretend to be government agencies such as the Small Business Administration (SBA). Business leaders need to routinely validate the source of any email or communication before doing anything else.
As a point of reference, many organizations, including the SBA, are transparent on the guidelines dictating how they communicate with small businesses. For example, the SBA will not contact small businesses directly to apply for the Payment Protection Program under the CARES Act, nor will the SBA text or communicate with businesses via social media. If you receive communication from someone claiming to be with the SBA who does not have an email ending in sba.gov, or from someone promising an SBA loan approval contingent on the payment of a high, upfront fee, contact the SBA Office of Inspector General Hotline at 1-800-767-0385.