Fraudsters have concocted a new COVID-related scam and this time they have businesses in their sights. According to reports, business owners are getting emails that appear to be about government-sponsored loan programs. But they’re really phishing messages trying to trick people into turning over personal information. The FTC has tips on how to spot the latest scam and how to defend your company’s good credit – and your good name – against other coronavirus cons targeting businesses.
Blog Posts Tagged with Credit and Loans
For people dealing with student loan debt – your employees, a family member, or maybe you – the CARES Act gives emergency grants to qualifying borrowers. But like other financial assistance programs, consumers need to know key details up front.
What’s in a name? According to an FTC lawsuit filed in April, if you’re an outfit that uses the name “SBA Loan Program” – and you falsely claim to be an approved lender for the Small Business Administration’s coronavirus relief lending program – what’s in your name is deception. Under the terms of a settlement, that shady tactic stops right here, right now.
Small businesses are a critical part of the U.S. economy, providing opportunity and employment to consumers across the country. Unfortunately, the current health crisis has brought financial strain to small businesses and their ability to secure the financing they need to survive. So now more than ever, struggling businesses and their owners need protection from deceptive and unfair practices. And the FTC is working swiftly to provide it.
In the face of COVID-19, many small businesses are looking for help from the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program. They may apply for PPP loans through Small Business Administration-authorized lenders and others the SBA has determined to be eligible. But there are concerns that some companies have falsely claimed an affiliation with the SBA or approved PPP lenders, or have represented untruthfully that people can get PPP or other SBA loans by applying on their sites.
Many small businesses, medical offices, non-profits, and religious organizations turned to a New York company called Richmond Capital for financing, but according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, they got less – and way more – than they bargained for. The just-filed law enforcement action against a network of related companies and individuals is the latest step in the FTC’s ongoing effort against questionable financing practices that target small businesses.
The FTC’s complaint against Bronx Honda alleges the company jacked up what consumers had to pay by fabricating fees, inflating charges, and sneaking in stealth add-ons. The lawsuit also alleges the defendants discriminated against African-American and Hispanic consumers by charging them higher financing markups and fees, in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Reg B.
For a company called Harvest Moon, its business practices sure leave consumers in the dark about key aspects of its payday loans. That’s what the FTC alleges in a case filed in federal court in Nevada.
Many small businesses are looking for a financial life preserver to help them stay afloat until the COVID-19 wave subsides. But joint warning letters just sent by FTC staff and the Small Business Administration raise concerns that some companies – including lead generators – are making questionable claims about their affiliation with SBA-administered programs designed to offer emergency relief to struggling businesses.
As companies struggle to stay afloat financially due to the economic reverberations of COVID-19, your employees are facing the same challenges at home. The FTC has something you can share with staff members in need – and it won’t cost you a thing.
Some things have changed in the rent-to-own business, but a $175 million proposed settlement with Progressive Leasing reminds companies that bedrock consumer protection principles apply, especially the fundamental proposition that deceiving people about cost strikes at the heart of the FTC Act. Not in the rent-to-own industry? Not so fast. The case offers compliance pointers for your company, too.
The COVID-19 crisis has many small businesses on the ropes, so it’s unfortunate we have to warn them about another threat. According to a lawsuit just filed by the FTC, a Rhode Island company that goes by the name “SBA Loan Program” has been soliciting applications from small businesses, but has no affiliation with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the loan programs that agency is currently running.
For small businesses, there’s never been a time when “business as usual” has been so unusual. With many companies facing coronavirus-related challenges, the FTC has tips for business owners – and for those offering small business financing – about navigating today’s uncharted financial waters.
As a business owner, you’ve seen the headlines about financial relief that may be available to some companies through the Small Business Administration (SBA). But you’ve also heard about scammers who extract a grain of truth from the news and distort it in an effort to cheat small businesses. Now more than ever it’s critical for small business owners to go straight to the source for accurate information about what’s happening at the SBA. And that source, of course, is the Small Business Administration’s dedicated page, sba.gov/coronavirus.
The practice is called piggybacking, but it’s not child’s play. It’s where a person with iffy credit pays a credit repair company to be listed as an authorized user on the account of someone with good credit – even though they don’t actually have access. The idea is that the person with bad credit can inflate their own credit score and get the money-saving benefits of better credit by “piggybacking” on the credit of a stranger. That’s how a Denver-based business pitched its services to cash-strapped consumers.
As an essential engine of the American economy, small business has a big impact. But where can small business owners turn for the capital they need to grow? Traditional lenders are one option, but the “It’s a Wonderful Life” image of George Bailey at the Building & Loan may not reflect reality. New online options may broaden the availability of credit, but they also raise some consumer protection concerns.
Top picks, star ratings, in-depth reviews. Many consumers don’t buy anything without consulting third-party review sites or checking out the opinions of other customers. But how often are those ratings the product of buying and selling between the “independent” site and companies willing to pay for better play? And are those reviews really from satisfied customers or are they from employees acting on instructions to stuff the ballot box with five-star ratings?
Everyone wants to save money at the pump. And no one wants to cut fuel costs more than companies – including many small businesses – that are in the trucking industry or have company cars. The FTC just filed a complaint alleging that Georgia-based FleetCor Technologies has made misleading representations in pitching its “Fuelman” and co-branded fuel cards to businesses around the country.
The first rule of credit repair is that no credit repair company can remove accurate and timely negative information from someone’s credit report. For credit repair companies that would claim otherwise, there’s CROA – the Credit Repair Organizations Act. It makes it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about what they can do to clear up a clouded credit report, or charge upfront fees before they do the job they promised to do.
It’s time to get up to speed and down to business. Strictly Business: An FTC Forum on Small Business Financing begins at 8:30 ET today, Wednesday, May 8th. Just in time for National Small Business Week, the half-day workshop will focus on the online marketplace for small business financing.