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Scammers may have posed as Arlington businesses in Covid grant applications

Local authorities thwarted potentially fraudulent attempts to obtain Covid grant funds intended for struggling Arlington small businesses.

Seventy-four applications for Arlington Economic Development’s GRANT 2.0 program were identified as suspicious, officials say. While AED was reviewing the 529 applications it received, it noticed unusual data in some, such as incorrect contact information or submissions for businesses that had been previously closed.

“Upon further review with the Treasurer’s Office and Arlington County Police Department, staff learned some of these questionable applications contained incorrect business license numbers and/or suspicious/blacklisted IP addresses,” AED spokesperson Cara O’Donnell told ARLnow.

Thanks to its “multi-tiered review process and cross-departmental verification of records,” the activity was caught early before any distribution of funds.

“At no time were these attempts successful,” an email AED sent to business owners reads. “Your security is our utmost concern, and it is extremely disheartening that individuals would use federal rescue funds targeted to small business recovery for potentially criminal activity.”

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating the applications. AED and the police department recommend business owners watch their financial activity and remain vigilant.

“In cases of business identity theft, individuals are sometimes able to gain access to business and/or business owners’ financial information, account numbers or other personal data and then open lines of credit or obtain business loans based on the business’ identity and creditworthiness,” the email states.

If business owners see any unusual financial activity in their accounts, the police department recommends it be reported online or to 703-228-4300.

“At this point in the investigation, police have not uncovered evidence nor received any reports from affected businesses that their information was used in any other manner,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.

AED announced in September that the  Small Business GRANT 2.0 program would provide $2 million to up to 200 eligible businesses and nonprofits. The program focuses on industries most affected by stay-at-home orders and those that had not previously received state or federal funding.

The grant application period was between Oct. 6-10 for small businesses in industries including arts and entertainment, child care, hotel and accommodations, personal services, restaurants and food service, and retail.

There were 76 eligible businesses and nonprofits selected from the applicants and awarded $10,000 to go toward salaries, benefits and other capital and operating expenses affected by Covid.

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