Beware of Frauds, Scams and ID Theft During Coronavirus Pandemic

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By Greg Smith

Greg Smith
Greg Smith

Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic in a variety of ways including submitting applications and receiving funding using another person’s identity. Victims may very well be unaware until they receive a letter from the Small Business Administration (SBA) informing them of payments due.

It is critical that those suspecting their identity has been stolen act quickly to limit financial loss and damage.

SBA officials recommend identity theft victims do ALL the following:

  1. Contact the Processing and Disbursement Center to report suspected fraud by calling (800) 366-6303. Their team will make a note to the file and place a hold on funds if they have not already been disbursed.
  2. Notify the SBA Office of the Inspector General to report any suspected fraud on the OIG’s Hotline at 800-767-0385 or email OIGHotline@sba.gov.
  3. Place a fraud alert on credit reports. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Whichever company is contacted is required to tell the other two.
  • www.Experian.com/fraudalert, or 1-888-397-3742
  • www.TransUnion.com/fraud, or 1-800-680-7289
  • www.Equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance, or 1-888-836-6351

Consider adding an extended fraud alert (valid for seven years) or a credit freeze to credit bureau reports.

  1. Reach out to the Federal Trade Commission: www.IdentityTheft.gov to file a report about the situation. Once a person has entered their information, the site will create an Identity Theft Report. Print it or save it to a computer; it will need to be referred to later.
  2. Contact the Oregon Attorney General’s Office at: 877-877-9392 or by emailing help@oregonconsumer.gov. It is possible to file an online complaint on their website by clicking the Consumer Protection tab.
  3. Victims should contact the Social Security Administration as soon as possible, even if they are not sure their number has been compromised at 1-800-269-0271 or submit a report online at https://oig.ssa.gov.

Another Round of PPP is Coming

While it is a good thing Congress has passed another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding (much of which is a forgivable loan), it does give scammers a new opportunity to steal someone’s identity.

It is critical that all people (not just business owners) take every precaution they can to protect their personal information. Our offices have received reports from non-business owners who received a letter from SBA stating an EIDL loan of several thousand dollars was taken out in their name and that a payment was due soon.

With that said, the PPP is an excellent program, and it is very much worth applying for. Business owners, and especially those who have not previously applied, should get their financial information in order now and equally important, research the allowable expenses so the loan may be forgiven.

Greg Smith is the executive advisor for the Umatilla Electric Cooperative Business Resource Center. To schedule a free and confidential business advising appointment, call 541-289-3000 or email uecbrc@gmail.com. The center is located at 1475 N. First St.

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