Fraud Investigation

Local Woman Finds Small Business Disaster Loan Was Taken Out in Her Name

NBC 7 Responds looked at the surprising letter a local woman received from the Small Business Administration

NBC Universal, Inc.

Businesses are hurting because of the coronavirus pandemic. There have been billions of dollars in emergency and disaster loans given out by the Small Business Administration to help keep the lights on. It turns out, some loans were taken out in the names of people who never applied.

"I don't own a small business," said Laura Russell, a clinical social worker. "I never applied for a loan and I never received that $9,800. I was perplexed!"

Russell received a letter in the mail from the SBA that said the loan she was given would need to start being paid back next year. At first she thought it was a scam, but said it looked very official.

"It said in 2021 I'd have to start repaying my small business loan," said Russell. "But I could start now if I wanted to avoid accruing interest."

Russell said she called the phone number in the letter which didn't help her determine if the letter was legitimate.

"I asked if they were federal employees and they never gave me a straight answer," said Russell. "But again it was just hard to tell."

The letter left Russell with a lot of questions and she couldn't find any answers. She tried to contact the Office of the Inspector General at the SBA to report it for fraud, but didn't hear back.

"Once I have clarity I'll know how to process, but I just don't know," said Russell. "If they want to tell me where that money is I can go get it and hand it back to them."

So Russell reached out to NBC 7 Responds. We contacted the SBA and were told they couldn't comment on individual loans, but they are looking into reports of fraud.

More help is on the way since the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to expand its small business stimulus grant program.

"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," said an SBA spokesperson. "The agency isn’t able to provide a time frame on the resolution of the many identity theft and fraud complaints."

Russell was worried that the loan could impact the rest of her finances even though she never got the money.

"What about my credit score? How do I resolve this?" asked Russell. "How do I prove I never got the money?"

We were able to connect Russell to a different office of the SBA where she was able to get a little clarification. She said the agency is now investigating the loan which appears to exist and is in her name.

"Just to have that assistance is a great help to me," said Russell. "Thank you so much."

If you want to report a potential case of fraud involving an SBA disaster or PPP loan you can learn more here.

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