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BBB Scam Alert: COVID-19 relief scams target small business owners

(KVOA) - On Wednesday, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a scam alert to small businesses. The BBB warned that as the new United States' COVID-19 relief package rolls out scammers may target small business owners.

The BBB said the scam works like this, "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 business or 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. In fact, since you didn’t know you should be receiving these funds, they already owe you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 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."

The good news is the BBB said there are ways to avoid COVID-19 relief scams. The BBB's scam-watcher tips include never paying money for "free money".

"If anyone claims you can receive money for free by paying a fee, don’t believe them," the BBB said in a news release. "This is a common scam tactic."

Another tip is to understand what government grants are and how they work.

"If your business is awarded a government grant, the government won’t ask you to pay fees to receive it," the BBB said. "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."

Also, be sure to double-check an organizations reviews before signing up to recieve their grant or relief money.

"Take a close look at their website and read consumer reviews. If you think you might be dealing with an imposter, find the official contact information and call the company to make sure the offer is legitimate," the BBB said.

Finally, The BBB warned that the scam offers may appear to be from someone you trust. Scammers have done this by hacking social media accounts or creating separate, lookalike profiles by stealing photos and personal information. 

"Even if a close friend or business associate you trust sent you the information regarding a grant or COVID-19 relief, make sure the claims are real before you get involved," the BBB said. "Social media accounts can be hacked and con artists may be posing as your friend."

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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