NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Tennessee woman is calling for more oversight on the U.S. Small Business Administration loan program, saying it has made people an easy target for thieves.
Pat Golab has been following the trail left behind by the people responsible for stealing her identity back in August. The last time she spoke with us about what happened, she shared that she was approved for the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Not only did Golab not apply, but she doesn't have a business of her own.
In the months that followed, Golab filed three reports with the SBA and the Office of the Attorney General. She finally managed to get her hands on a copy of the application and says what she found should put others on alert.
Thieves used her name, address, and social security number to apply for the $45,000 loan, but left virtually everything else blank.
Simple questions like ethnicity, gender, and veteran status went ignored. Golab says that should have been a red flag, but it only got worse from there.
“Things like, how long have you been in business? Nothing,” said Golab.
Questions on prior business history and bankruptcies were left blank. These thieves claimed 12 employees were working, but also say they plan to retain none.
“The application never should have been approved,” Golab said.
So why was a program designed to help businesses keep their employee, paying out thousands of dollars to businesses who don’t plan on retaining anyone? That’s the question Golab has yet to have answered.
“I looked on the SBA’s website on how to complete the application and one of the first things it says is every question must be answered. If not, the application will be returned and you’ll come back and you’ll start at the bottom. Which was not what they did at all,” Golab said.
The loan in Golab’s name has been deferred, but she still gets letters from the SBA saying they need her to make $200 payments each month to cover the accruing interest.
We contacted the SBA once again on Monday and they tell us they can’t speak in detail about individual claims.
They issued this statement:
“The SBA Office of Inspector General and the agency’s federal partners are working diligently to resolve Economic Injury Disaster Loan and PPP fraud incidents.
Additionally, the SBA does not comment on individual borrowers. Evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse with any of SBA’s loan programs is not tolerated and should be reported.”
Douglas Schmidt is a professor of computer science at Vanderbilt University and says cybercriminals are expanding their operations around the country. This makes it even more challenging to catch them in the act, and almost impossible if they are beyond the jurisdiction of local and state law enforcement.
With how fast federal officials had to roll out money for unemployment programs and the SBA loans, Schmidt says it makes sense why some applications like those filed in Golab’s name could slip through the cracks.
“It’s a growing problem. It's a problem that is only solved by education,” Schmidt said.
If they haven’t tried already, Schmidt says thieves will send phishing emails and or calls, claiming to be one of these agencies you trust. Whatever you do, do not fall for it.
Pay close attention to the email address or phone number. If you’re at all skeptical about who you’re talking to, try calling the agency back yourself to verify if they made the call in the first place.
Around the holiday season, thieves will also try and use the names of people close to you. They may give you a story about a relative falling on hard time needing money. The same advice applies again. Try contacting the relative yourself, to avoid sending money to someone you do not know.
Thieves may also try and convince you that your Amazon package is delayed and they need more information to verify where to send it. Stop the call, or don’t click on the email and contact Amazon directly.