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COVID-19 contact tracing scammers
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Scammers target immigrant and refugee businesses seeking COVID-19 aid

Texts claiming to be from the Health Department are the latest trick scammers are using (Image credit: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new scheme is making the rounds: scammers target immigrant and refugee-owned businesses in Salt Lake County who are trying to get COVID-19 business loans.

Many small businesses impacted by COVID-19 coronavirus await federal loans to help them through the tough times.

Salt Lake County Economic Development Director Blake Thomas says the scammers pose as someone who can help get those loans.

“Some small businesses were receiving offers that for $2,500, individuals or organizations would help [them] apply for federal stimulus funding or help move them up in the queue,” Thomas said.

But it’s all a fraud.

“That is predatory behavior,” Thomas said. “These are federal and local loan programs for small businesses that do not have fees attached. They’re very straightforward applications, and there is no moving anyone up in the queue,” Thomas said.

Refugee and immigrant-owned businesses started reporting the scam right away. But Thomas worries about business owners who are not fluent in English. They could be a bigger target.

“The Paycheck Protection Program, the federal loan program that was part of the stimulus package, and then also the Small Business Administration has economic injury disaster loans. Much of that [paperwork is] in English,” Thomas said.

It’s unclear how many businesses have been targeted. But Thomas says it seems to be happening more and more across the United States.

That’s why Salt Lake County has been posting warnings about the scam in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. They are also encouraging business owners to report the scam to law enforcement.

Business owners who have questions about any loan programs are encouraged to call the Salt Lake County Business Relief Hotline at 385-468-4011 or, if they need to speak to someone in another language, to email  covid-business@slco.org.

 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus 

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading: 

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.  
  • Don’t touch your face. 
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet) 
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.) 
  • Get a flu shot. 

Resources for more information: 

State of Utah:  https://coronavirus.utah.gov/ 

Utah State Board of Education 

Utah Hospital Association 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization 

Cases in the United States