Beware of COVID-19 relief scams

Eye on Scams

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- Scammers are targeting small businesses, claiming they are missing out on pandemic relief funding they’ve never even heard of. Scammers are offering free money that comes at a cost.

“Scammers are continuing to take advantage of our vulnerability with the pandemic,” Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said. “We’ve had reports of emails, text messages, and phone calls to business owners or maybe somebody in the accounting department saying that they’re eligible as a business for some type of relief loan or relief grant that they haven’t heard of. And when they give the information that the scammer is asking for, they lead themselves to be scammed out of money for their company.”

The scammer will offer to sign your business up to receive the funds. The trap- the con-artist may even ask you to pay a processing or delivery fee to receive your relief funds.

“Then in reality, once you pay that processing fee to the scammer, they disappear, and the grant or loan never existed, and if you don’t cancel that credit card or put an alert on that account, they’re going to charge that account for as much money as they can in the future,” explained Babin.

And they disappear for good, he said. Don’t be fooled, sometimes these offers appear to come from someone you trust. Scammers are hacking social media accounts or creating separate, lookalike profiles by stealing photos and personal information.

“One thing that is consistent with this is that they (scammers) tell businesses that they haven’t heard of that,” Babin said. “They haven’t heard of this loan or this grant before because they’ve maybe been looking into some options for their business, so scammers are quick to say that it’s something new or it’s something that was not that most businesses weren’t as aware of so that it’s not a red flag to you that you hadn’t heard of it so they’re quick to catch that in the beginning.”

According to the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, here’s how you can avoid COVID-19 relief scams:

  • Never pay for “free money.” If anyone claims you can receive money for free by paying a fee, don’t believe them.
  • Understand government grants. If your business is awarded a government grant, you won’t have to pay fees to receive it.
  • Double check the claims before you sign up. Make sure the offer is legitimate.

If you have a scam you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at smasters@klfy.com.

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