Phone scam targets small business owners looking for financial help

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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) — A new scam is trying to take advantage of small business owners who have applied for loans from the Small Business Administration.

Whitmore owns Ujima United, a small public health consulting firm. During the pandemic, Whitmore, like so many others, applied for an EIDL COVID-19 loan.

“My consulting business didn’t have as many projects going on as usual,” Whitmore said. “So I was eligible and I applied.”

She says about six months ago she started getting phone calls from a friendly woman telling her the loan had been approved.

“They would make it look like I’ve already spoken to that person when it’s clear I haven’t yet spoken to anyone about my loan,” Whitmore explained.

The Better Business Bureau says scammers seek to take advantage of small business owners looking for information about their loans.

“We know consumers were asking for loans and business owners were asking for financial support,” said Tiffany Bernhadt Schultz, Southwest Wisconsin regional director for the Better Business Bureau. “The scammers have found a way to capitalize and lure their victims into their tricks.”

Luckily, Whitmore was suspicious enough of phone calls and did her research before calling anyone back, but she sees how easily someone could fall for it.

“I think there’s a good chance that a lot of people will believe them and call back and provide information,” Whitmore said. “I know how easy it is for people desperate for that relief to believe the information they’re getting is real.”

She says it’s upsetting and frustrating that there are people looking to profit from small businesses.

“It’s hard enough as it is during the pandemic for small businesses,” Whitmore said. “To add this potential risk that could jeopardize the already fragile finances of many small businesses is truly unfortunate.”

The BBB says the best defense against scams is education.

“The scammers have become very complex,” said Berhadt Schultz. “They want you to feel their offer is real. You shouldn’t base your decision on calling them back without doing research. »

If you want to report a scam or search for other reported scams, go to BBB website.

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