The new stimulus package is providing additional relief to small businesses across the U.S. and the Better Business Bureau is warning that scammers are trying to take advantage of business owners by claiming they’re missing out on pandemic relief. How can business owners ensure they’re not being scammed in their time of need?
Stay calm. Many scam artists want you to act immediately and will make the situation seem urgent. Try to remain calm and think about the legitimacy of the phone call before making any sudden moves that could result in getting caught up in the supposed “urgency” of the call. Staying calm and not falling for the dramatics of the scammer’s story will allow you to process all the facts before potentially falling victim.
Don’t respond to unknown texts, calls or emails. If you are unfamiliar with the phone number or email address, don’t respond. Avoid clicking on any links sent to you from an unknown source. This will help you to steer clear of potential scammers. If the message claims to be from the government, find the agency’s contact information online and reach out. Scammers will typically call you from an unknown number and pose as a real or made-up agency in order to get personal details that can lead to your information getting stolen. Research has shown a large increase in COVID-19-related scams in the form of text messages and email links that take people to a site requesting personal information.
Check for look-alikes. Does the organization they claim to be with actually exist? Do a quick online search to verify the organization. If you can’t find any information about the agency they claim to be, or the agency’s number does not match the one calling you, then don’t proceed. Typically, scammers will use fake organization names to get you to divulge personal information that can lead to identity fraud. Double-checking the source of the email or phone call can save you a lot of time and money in case an agency is not who they say they are.
Don’t pay for a “free” government grant or program. Is the person on the end of the line asking for an up-front fee? Then they are most likely a scammer. A real government agency will not ask for an advance processing fee. Doing this is a way for them to get hold of your bank information and, ultimately, commit fraud. To check if an agency is real, visit grants.gov and make sure you reference government-only sites for any information about COVID stimulus checks.
Scammers are taking advantage of businesses’ vulnerability during COVID-19 with links and convincing messages that result in identity and bank fraud. With the December disbursement of government stimulus checks, the Better Business Bureau is warning people to look out for potential scams in the form of text message ads, emails from unknown addresses and spam phone calls that are looking to obtain your personal information. Staying cautious of unknown numbers, verifying information and staying calm can protect small businesses during this difficult time.
Charles Jackson is a published author and has consulted with a variety of small business ventures. As president of the Association for Entrepreneurship USA, Jackson and his team serve, support, represent and promote the discipline of entrepreneurship for those have or wish for the freedom of successfully driving their own business.