The COVID-19 outbreak has been tough on small businesses. Consumers are spending less and many of us have had to reduce or shut down operations. To make things even worse, criminals are working overtime trying to pull COVID-19 scams on small businesses. These criminals know that many of us are in need of relief and that we are searching for solutions to some of the problems that have arisen out of the pandemic. As a result, we are a little more vulnerable and we might not catch a scam that we would have spotted easily under other circumstances.
Protect your business by keeping an eye out for the following coronavirus-related scams. You should also educate your key employees to make sure they know what to look for as well.
Fake Company Emails
Email impersonation scams are not new. This scam works by sending an email impersonating someone at your company. Usually, they will pretend to be someone of authority in order to get an employee to click on an infected email link. They might also try to get them to fill out a form with sensitive information. Protect against this type of scam by teaching your employees about fake emails and setting policies for what they should do when an email directs them to a link or requests sensitive information.
SBA Outreach Scams Most small business owners are aware of the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. With so many small businesses in desperate need of financial relief, criminals view the program as a good opportunity to scam small businesses. With this scam, the criminal will reach out through email or phone and claim to be a representative of the SBA or some other government agency. They will then ask for financial information or a fee to help process your PPP loan. To avoid this scam, you shouldn’t make any payments or provide financial information in response to unsolicited calls or emails. If you need a PPP loan, go to the SBA website for more information or contact a participating lender.
Fake charities pop up with every disaster or crisis. Scammers will try to take advantage of the generosity of small business owners by reaching out to ask for donations to a seemingly legitimate charity. The best thing you can do to avoid this scam is to research any charity before donating. If you do want to donate, find a reputable charity and go to their website to make a donation.
COVID-19 Update Scams
Some criminals are sending emails to small businesses pretending to be organizations like the CDC. They include links that claim to have the latest updates about the virus or guidelines for reopening your business. When you click on the link, it infects your computer (or your entire network) with malware. To avoid this, don’t click on the links. If you want the latest updates, go to the CDC coronavirus info page.
Government Grant Scams
Fraudsters will reach out to small business owners through email, phone or social media claiming to be from a government agency that is offering COVID-19 grants. Through the communication, they will ask for financial information. The important thing to know about this scam is that the government will not ask for financial information over the phone, through email or on social media. If you are looking for government assistance, gather your information and go to the legitimate site for the agency you need to contact.
COVID-19 has brought out the best in many of us, but it has also brought out the worst in some. Be careful any time someone reaches out claiming to be from a government agency and don’t provide sensitive personal or financial information over the phone or through email.
Rae L. Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing for Funding Circle.