LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Many small business owners have struggled to obtain federal relief funds that are supposed to help businesses stay afloat in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, crooks are using identity theft to apply for and receive loans, leaving gigantic balances in other people’s names.
That’s what happened to Cynthia Lommel, of Lakeland. The 70-year-old retired woman has never even owned a business, but the Small Business Administration approved a $150,000 loan in her name.
“It’s crazy,” Lommel said. “I can’t believe this was approved and no one called to check in with me or to even let me know this was approved. Can you imagine what the payment would be on a $150,000 loan?”
Lommel says she discovered the loan in her name because she checks her credit often and discovered that the Small Business Administration had made an inquiry into her credit. She called the SBA to find out why and was informed of the loan.
She says she was told the person who applied used a New Jersey address, even though she lives in Lakeland, and the money was sent to the Virgin Islands.
“This is money that is supposed to help American businesses and their employees,” she said.
Coronavirus relief fraud is rampant, a congressional investigation this week found more than $1 billion that was supposed to help small businesses ended up in the wrong hands.
Cynthia says SBA’s fraud department assured her she won’t have to pay the money back, but wouldn’t provide anything in writing, which she wants in case this loan issue comes up in the future.
A spokesman for the SBA tells Investigative Consumer Reporter Shannon Behnken that he sent questions about Lommel’s loan to staff attorneys and someone will be in touch with Lommel about getting that written fraud confirmation.
“It took me a long time to be able to move across country and buy a home here. It’s the only thing I will be leaving to my kids, and I don’t want them to come back and find out that there’s a lien on the house for $150,000, or that there’s some other stuff happening after I’m gone,” Lommel said. “I want it cleared up now.”
Given the uptick in fraud, it is recommended to check your credit to make sure you don’t see anything that shouldn’t be there.
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