Because of the recent economic downturn, the US government passed laws to give money in the form of stimulus check for most taxpayers as well as relief to many small businesses. Politicians have also hinted that we may see even more stimulus packages in a few months. The first, most well-known stimulus packages give qualified individuals $1,200 with some getting more and others less. The recent SBA (Small Business Assistance) Disaster Loan Assistance also provides financial help for small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic. These packages will hopefully help the economy get back on track.
With so much money on the table people want to ensure they get their part, and rightly so. But confusion left by the size of the stimulus bill and issues with government agencies cooperating with each other causes a lot of questions for the public. While reviewing the small business language last week, I noticed that the description for it covers $2,000,000 per business then it says it covers $10,000 per business. They fixed it sometime early Monday morning, but you can see how this could cause confusion.
Scammers have already taken advantage of the new and uncertain stimulus package. As reported by the BBB (Better Business Bureau), scammers are using social media to link victims to sites that look official. Once you click the link and view the page, they ask for person information like your SSN and banking details. They may also request a small “processing fee.” According to the BBB linked above, the US government will never ask for a processing fee for any grant they give. Many variations of the scam exist, and we expect this scam to come in emails, phone calls, and other forms for the coming months. Grants.gov provides the only official list of all government grants but with all the confusion it may take some time before new grants just passed will show up.
Never pay an advance processing fee for free money or goods. This popular scam even has its own name, called the “Nigerian Prince Scam” or the “419 Scam,” referring to the Nigerian Criminal Code that covers this crime. If you see a link in a social media post always check the source of the link before clicking. Also, only government websites end in “.gov” but some government websites do end in other Top Level Domains like .org or .com. If you don’t know if you connected to the correct web page, try searching for the site through other reputable sites. For small business loans and grants search in https://www.sba.gov/page/disaster-loan-applications or Grants.gov. According to CNN if you are eligible for the non-business-related stimulus package, you will automatically receive a direct deposit or a check in the mail depending on if you used direct deposit for your last two tax returns. Therefore, only illegitimate emails or social media posts will ask for payment or personal information to receive this check. Ignore these and report them as scams.