Scam artists are once again taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by targeting small businesses, claiming they are missing out on (fake) pandemic relief the business owner has never heard of.

How the scam works

You receive a call, email, or social media message directed to you as a business owner or bookkeeper. It seems to come from a legitimate organization. The person you communicate with asks if your business is taking advantage of a COVID-19 relief package or government grant you are unaware of. When you tell them you aren’t, they offer to sign you up right away. Scammers may then ask you to pay a processing or delivery fee to receive your relief funds. Unfortunately, once they get your “processing fee,” they will disappear for good.

Sometimes these offers appear to come from someone you trust. Scammers are either hacking social media accounts or creating separate, lookalike profiles by stealing photos and personal information. 

Avoid COVID-19 Relief Scams 

• Never pay money for “free money.” If anyone claims you can receive money for free by paying a fee, don’t believe them. This is a common scam tactic.

• Understand government grants. If your business is awarded a government grant, the government won’t ask you to pay fees to receive it. Before you believe something a stranger tells you about getting a grant, check the official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies at Grants.gov

• Double check the claims before you sign up. If an organization is offering you a grant or relief funds, get to know them before you agree to anything. Take a close look at their website and read consumer reviews. If you think you might be dealing with an impostor, find the official contact information and call the company to make sure the offer is legitimate.

• Be careful, even if the information comes from a friend. Social media accounts can be hacked and con artists may be posing as your friend.

To learn more about government scams, visit BBB.org/GrantScam.

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