A scam alert is going out to small businesses across Iowa. Some merchants are getting legitimate-looking faxes from the U.S. Small Business Administration, saying they may be due a tax rebate under the federal stimulus package and the S.B.A. is assessing their eligibility. Joe Folsom, district director for the S-B-A in Iowa, says it’s bogus.
Folsom says, "If they’re asking for bank account information or information to be faxed back, particularly loan account numbers and Social Security numbers, they should ignore it and report it to our Office of Inspector General which is 1-800-767-0385." He says he was stunned by how authentic and timely the faxes appear and understands why this is raising a red flag.
Folsom says, "What the scam artist has done, the ones that we’ve seen, (the business) will get a fax which looks like it’s coming in on S.B.A. letterhead and they ask for the information to be faxed back to them." He says he’s not aware of any businesses in the state being duped by the faxes and he hopes it stays that way.
"Be on alert for these types of situations," Folsom says. "Lenders, government agencies aren’t going to be requesting this kind of information from you in this kind of a manner, either through e-mails or fax kinds of messages."
He says this scheme is similar to e-mail scams known as "phishing" that seek personal data and financial account information, enabling con artists to access bank accounts or to engage in identity theft. In addition to the above 800-number, the S.B.A. Office of Inspector General can also be reached via e-mail at "OIGHotline@sba.gov".