STEALING YOUR MONEY
Have you checked your credit report lately? If not, you probably should do so without a moment’s delay.
Why? Some serious data breaches over the past few years – most notably the one at credit reporting bureau Equifax – have exposed the sensitive personal information of millions of consumers. With such key data in hand as your name, date of birth, and social security number criminals now have an easier time stealing your identify for financial gain.
And since May of this year, they’ve had plenty of incentive to do so. Thanks to the availability of tax-payer subsidized Paycheck Protection Program loans issued by the federal government, the Small Business Administration has been processing millions of loans, and a not insignificant number of those loans have been fraudulent.
Scammers are using readily available data about consumers’ identity to create fraudulent loan applications with the SBA requesting loans that they have no intention of repaying. One of our team at DMK Advisor Group discovered just such a loan in her name being processed by the SBA, fortunately in time to put a stop to it and protect her credit.
You’ll recall that as part of the sweeping CARES Act passed in May 2020 to address the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration implemented the PPP program to help businesses survive the sudden downturn. But the haste with which the legislation was put into action left little opportunity for safeguards to keep that money out of undeserving hands. That makes it even more imperative that consumers keep an eye out for unauthorized activity on their credit report.
Check Your Credit Report
Every consumer is able to access their credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Transunion and Experian – free of charge.
But in the current climate you may want to consider an ongoing “membership” arrangement with one or more of them. That way, you’ll be alerted if a potential creditor attempts to access your credit or if a loan application is submitted in your name. You’ll also have quicker tools for locking and unlocking your credit report as needed.
Speaking of locking your credit report, it’s a good idea for most consumers to have theirs locked until they plan to apply for credit. Locking your report makes it almost impossible for crooks to take out loans or apply for credit in your name.
Report Any Fraud Right Away
What steps should you take if you do discover someone has fraudulently applied for credit or a loan in your name? Act immediately:
- Report the fraud to the credit reporting agencies. All have fraud reporting hot lines or an online reporting system for doing so.
If you’ve been a victim of a PPP loan fraud, notify the SBA right away. For fastest response, call their hotline at 800-767-0385 or visit them online at sba.gov.
The SBA also recommends that loan fraud victims report the crime to the FTC at their website identitytheft.gov.