Beware of PPP Scams

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been a welcome relief for small businesses struggling to stay afloat while also keeping their employees’ incomes flowing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program provides eligible businesses with unsecured loans to help them cover payroll, rent and other ongoing business expenses, with the possibility of partial or complete loan forgiveness. The loans are furnished by the Small Business Association (SBA) with applications processed by private lenders or other organizations. There have been many changes and updates made to the PPP since it was first passed on April 24, 2020. Most recently, the SBA began accepting applications for Second Draw PPP Loans on Jan. 11, 2021 from participating lenders.

Unfortunately, the PPP has been plagued by fraud since its inception. In these scams, criminals posing as representatives of the SBA, another government entity or a legitimate lender trick business owners into applying for a loan through their organization, sharing information that can then be used to hack their accounts and more.

Here’s what you need to know about PPP scams and how to avoid them:

How PPP loans are processed

The more you know about how PPP loans work, the stronger protection you’ll have against possible scams.

If you want to apply for a PPP loan, simply download the loan application through the SBA. Fill it out and submit it to an SBA-approved lender. You may also need to provide all or some of the following documents:

  • Tax returns for 2019
  • Payroll reports showing how you achieved your requested total loan amount
  • Documents proving your company’s structure, formation and ownership
  • Verifiable payroll expense documents and breakdown of payroll benefits
  • Payroll summary report with corresponding financial statements
  • Certification that all employees live within the United States. If you have employees overseas, you’ll need to provide a separate list of these workers and their respective salaries.
  • Most recent mortgage or rent statement and utility bills
  • Documentation about how COVID-19 has negatively impacted your business

If you’re applying for a Second Draw PPP Loan, you will also need documentation that showcases how you have used, or plan to use, your original PPP funds.

After you’ve submitted your application, you can sit back and wait for approval. There’s no need to share any additional information on the phone or via email.

How can I protect my business from PPP fraud?

Here’s a list of dos and don’ts to help keep your business safe from PPP scams.

 Do:

  • Be wary of any individuals demanding immediate payment from you, or asking that you make immediate contact with them to be eligible for a PPP loan. These are likely scammers.
  • Only use a lender that is accredited by the SBA. You can find a full list of SBA-approved lenders here.
  • Look for the .gov at the end of each email or website allegedly from the SBA or another government entity, such as http://www.sba.gov.
  • Reach out to your local and state government if you need help applying for a PPP loan.
  • Report any suspected scams to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and your state’s attorney general office. If a suspicious caller or email contact alleges to represent the SBA, alert the SBA as well.

Don’t:

  • Share any personal information, like your Social Security number or checking account details, with an unverified caller or email contact.
  • Pay for a program that promises to process or expedite a PPP loan request if the organization behind the program is not truly accredited by the SBA. Click on links or download files from an unfamiliar email address. These links could infect your device with malware.

Times are tough all around as the world grapples with the “new normal” and small businesses have been especially hard-hit. PPP loans can help struggling organizations get back on their feet, but scammers don’t want to let that happen. Use the tips outlined above to protect yourself and your business from a PPP scam. Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a PPP scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
sba.gov
bloomberg.com
ucbi.com
chicagotribune.com

Products for Managing and Tracking Business Expenses

Running a flourishing business means overseeing a constant flow of money. There’s revenue, payroll, suppliers, lease payments, taxes and so much more. It’s a lot to keep track of!  Luckily, though, there are lots of products on the market that can help you cover, manage and track your business expenses effectively and smoothly. Let’s take a look at some of these products and share some tips for choosing those that are the best fit for your business.

Business checking accounts

A designated business checking account makes a company look credible and professional while enabling it to manage and track expenses, taxes and revenue. Separate accounts also protect business owners from losing their personal assets if legal action is taken against the company. Business owners can use their checking accounts to deposit checks made out to their company and to cover business expenses, such as payroll or payments to suppliers.

Here’s what to look for in a business checking account:

  • Generous cash-deposit limit per transaction
  • Generous monthly transaction limit
  • Low or no maintenance fee and other costs
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Possible dividend rate

[If you’re looking to open a business checking account, a Advantage One Credit Union Business Checking Account can be a great choice. Our business checking account has [a low maintenance fee of $xx/month/ no maintenance fees] and convenient features like [XXX]. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to learn more.]

Business savings account

A business savings account is an account designated for funds to be used in cases of emergency or for future business expenses. The money in this account will grow at a greater rate, but access to these funds will be more limited.

Business owners can use a savings account to build a cash cushion for slower seasons, prepare for unexpected expenses or to save up for new equipment, tax payments or an expansion.  Many financial institutions also offer rewards and incentives for businesses opening a business savings account, such as cash-back programs, increased dividend rates for larger deposits and reduced fees.

Here’s what to look for in a business savings account: 

  • High dividend rates
  • Low fees and a transparent fee structure
  • Rewards and perks
  • Online and mobile banking

[Opening a Advantage One Credit Union Business Savings Account will provide you with a favorable rate of [x.x%], generous terms, and convenient features like [XXX]. If you’re ready to open a business savings account, call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today.]

Business credit card

A business credit card provides small business owners with easy and unsecured access to a revolving line of credit. Business owners can use the credit to withdraw cash as necessary, cover large expenses, make purchases, fund an expansion or meet their monthly bill payments.

In comparison to a business loan, a business credit card is easier to qualify for, but it will nearly always come with a higher interest rate. If business owners are careful only to use the credit card when it is absolutely necessary and pays the bill before it’s due, interest will not accrue. A generous line of credit can be a convenient way to increase a business owner’s purchasing power without risking any assets. Credit debt that is managed well will also build the company’s credit score and may provide the business with rewards and incentives.

Here’s what to look for in a business credit card: 

  • A low interest rate
  • Generous perks and rewards
  • A low or no annual fee
  • Interest-free introductory period
  • Purchase protection and insurance

[If you’re looking to open a business credit card, look no further than Advantage One Credit Union. Our Business Credit Cards feature a generous credit limit, easy qualifying terms, and great perks. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to learn more.]

Tax software

Tracking business expenses and marking which of them can be deducted from a company’s tax liability can be super-challenging. Tax software designed for businesses makes this task easy. Business tax software, like H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer, can track all the expenses of a business and help owners file taxes efficiently and easily. The software allows businesses to upload all relevant tax documents, provides online support from tax specialists and helps the business calculate federal — and sometimes also state — tax liability. Businesses will need to pay a fee to download most tax software programs, but the cost is more than offset by the time and money the software can save a business.

Here’s what to look for in tax software for businesses:

  • Online tax filing
  • Low monthly cost
  • Assistance with filing federal and state taxes
  • Compatibility with your devices
  • Money-management apps

Managing expenses for a small business isn’t easy. There’s payroll, suppliers, monthly bills and so many other ongoing expenses that need to be covered. Fortunately, there’s an app for that! Money management apps like Mint, Truebill and ZohoBooks allow businesses to track and review all their expenses in one convenient location. Chart expenses on colorful graphs to visualize cash flow, see where the business money is going, categorize expenses for easier tax-filing and link accounts for automatic syncing of expenditures and income. Tracking business expenses on an app also makes for easy monitoring the business via mobile device.

Here’s what to look for in a money-management app: 

  • Manageable monthly cost
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Synchronization across multiple devices

Your Turn: How do you manage your business expenses? Tell us about the products you use in the comments.

Learn More:
entrepreneur.com
investopedia.com
nerdwallet.com
patriotsoftware.com
brex.com

When and Why to Take on Business Debt

Taking on debt can be an inevitable step for many businesses. A loan or a line of credit can provide a struggling business with the cash it needs to expand or fund a new venture.

As with every financial move, thought, it’s best to consider all angles before going ahead with the decision. Here’s what you need to know about when and why it can make sense to take on business debt:

When is it a good idea to take on business debt?

Businesses can benefit from taking out loans or opening new lines of credit under these circumstances:

When seeking resources to help grow the business. It takes money to make money, and a small business loan can help business owners pay for an expansion when they don’t have the current resources to fund it on their own. The funds can be used to broaden the company’s line of products or services, pay for a move to a larger location, fund a marketing campaign or hire additional staff.

Before taking on debt for this purpose, it’s important for a business to first measure the anticipated return on investment (ROI) for the debt. The ROI for taking on new debt needs to exceed its post-tax interest costs for the debt to be profitable for the business. For example, if a business takes out a loan to pay for new equipment costing $10,000 that will enable it to sign a $20,000 contract, it needs to ensure that a loan won’t cost them more than $10,000 in interest and other fees. Otherwise, the business will not stand to gain from taking on new debt. The profit margin also needs to be generous enough for the venture to be worth the time and effort for the business. If the final gain is minimal, the business owner may be better off investing energy in another lower-cost endeavor.

When trying to build credit. Taking out a small loan or opening a new line of credit can be a great way to build a credit profile for a business and to strengthen its relationship with financial institutions. Small loans and lines of credit can help a business prove it is responsible and trustworthy for repaying debts. This will open the doors to larger loans that may be needed in the future.

When taking on debt for this reason, it’s important for a business to run the numbers and to be sure it can handle the monthly payments, even before the anticipated boost in revenue. If a company cannot meet its monthly payments, taking on new debt can wind up doing more harm than good to its credit.

Why is debt often a preferred source of funds?

Businesses in need of extra cash can choose from several options. Primarily, a business can decide to sell equity in its company or to take out a small business loan or open a new line of credit. Here’s why debt can be a preferred source of funds for businesses:

It has lower financing costs. Unlike equity, debt is limited. Once the loan is paid back, the business owner can forget it ever existed. On the flip side, selling equity in a company generally means forking over a part of the profit for as long as the business exists. (It’s important to note, though, that debt has fixed repayment costs as opposed to equity stakes, which are determined as a percentage of the company’s profit. This means a business owner will need to pay back debt regardless of the company’s success.)

It provides tax advantages. Business debt can decrease a company’s tax liability by lowering its equity base. As an added bonus, interest on business loans and lines of credit are usually tax-deductible.

It mitigates risk. Taking on debt to access funds, instead of selling equity, lowers the company’s risk in the event that the business does not succeed.

[If you’re ready to take out a business loan or to open a new line of credit for your business, we can help! Our business loans and the lines of credit feature favorable rates and easy terms. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to secure the funds you need to grow your business.]

Your Turn: Tell us about your experience with getting a business loan or line of credit in the comments.

Learn More:
entrepreneur.com
montrealfinancial.ca
businessinsider.com

5 Ways to Help Local Small Businesses Survive the Coronavirus Crisis

Man eating a casual lunch while watching TVShop your local stores online
Most retailers are offering their products through online purchasing, even if they hadn’t been doing so before the coronavirus pandemic. Continue supporting local businesses by choosing to order through their websites until they reopen their brick-and-mortar locations.

Buy gift cards
Service businesses like spas and theaters that don’t sell products, are hit particularly hard by the coronavirus shutdowns. Help them continue to turn a profit by purchasing gift cards now for later use.

Order in
Dining out is a luxury that most of the world will have to do without for now, but you can still enjoy your favorite takeout food at home. Most restaurants and fast-food chains are taking precautions to prepare their food within hygienic conditions to meet the CDC guidelines. You can safely order through a food delivery service, like UberEats or Postmates, or use the restaurant’s drive-thru or curbside pickup service.

Tip extra
Whether you’re ordering dinner in or just having your groceries delivered because you can’t leave your home, you can help local businesses make it through this economic crisis by tipping a little bit more than you normally would. You can usually add your tip to the total being charged on your card to avoid physical contact with the delivery person.

Take advantage of discounts
In an effort to boost their sales, many small businesses are offering steep discounts on their products at this time. Take advantage by purchasing larger than normal quantities of the sale items to help the business stay afloat.