PALM CITY, Fla. — A retired doctor living Palm City has once again been hit by a scam involving identity theft to take out Small Business Association disaster assistance loans. It's the second time in weeks he's been the target of the scam.
He's not alone, as more stories are emerging across the country.
Contact 5 first reported last month, Dr. Richard Loew and his wife Donna were the victims of a scam targeting SBA loans. Cyber criminals used Donna's personal information to take out an SBA loan for "Donna Farms," a fictitious business the Loews said they never owned.
Now, Loew tells Contact 5 another SBA loan was taken out with their personal information, this time for "Richard Farms."
"Supposedly, there are two farms in the middle of my home somewhere," Loew said in an interview at his Palm City home.
He's not alone.
As Contact 5 reported in August, Okeechobee resident Patty Sarkar was also a victim of the cyber scheme, with an SBA loan taken out using her information for a business called "Patty Farm." Alan Mittermaier, of Columbus, Ohio, sent Contact 5 a letter from the SBA saying a loan for $18,600 was taken out for "Mittermaier Farm," a business he's never owned.
Now, Contact 5 has identified additional victims, in Lexington, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee.
Cybersecurity expert Carrie Kerskie saids the SBA's list of eligible businesses for disaster relief loans includes farms.
"So because they are mentioned in there, that might have been something the bad guys were using, thinking it would be easier to go ahead and just get the application approved," Kerskie told Contact 5 in an interview.
Kerskie believes the federal government's haste to get money into the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic made programs an easy target for cyber criminals. She said that's another reason people should consider freezing their credit.
"A credit freeze prevents a new creditor from seeing your credit report," explained Kerskie. "If they can't see a credit report, a financial decision cannot be made. Therefore, an account cannot be opened."
Meanwhile, Loew is frustrated. He still gets monthly reminders from the SBA that he'll have to start paying back the loans next summer.
"The government should be protecting me," Loew told Contact 5.
Loew said he's worked for weeks trying to clear his name and says his credit score has dropped more than one-hundred points.
"You can't get loans for a car or a house," Loew said of his drop in credit score, adding, "or you can't get the interest rates you want."
The Small Business Administration said it wants anyone victimized by this fraud to file a report with their agency. Click here to learn more.
For more information on freezing your credit, click on the links below.