After the implementation of the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program, small businesses around the country began to rely on the Small Business Administration for critical support.
That opened the window for fraudsters to take advantage as countless fake websites, email scams and social media accounts have appeared looking to obtain confidential information from those seeking emergency loan assistance.
Dealing with impersonators is, of course, not new for SBA. Like many other agencies they have had to play a proactive role in countering these scams while dealing with their own internal workforce infrastructure adjustments and heightened role in helping the nation get through the pandemic.
One area they have been able to ramp up the efforts of their cyber threat teams is by creating a partnership with the public affairs office to take the fight to social media.
“We partnered internally with our public affairs office, and we learned that they were doing it to a degree. It was like, ‘hey, we can help out, let’s accelerate it.’ So we started identifying all the impersonations on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, name a social media site, they were impersonating PPP, the administrator or some official for the Small Business Administration,” said James Saunders, SBA’s former Chief Information Security Officer, and now the Senior Advisor to the Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity at the Office of Personnel Management, at a ZeroFOX webinar on Tuesday.
For the most part, SBA has had success getting the social media platforms to remove the pages.
“We just started reaching out to organizations, ‘hey they’re impersonating our brand, our trademark, our mission, etc.’ And about 90% of the time, the social media organization was willing to take it down,” Sauders said.
For the pages the platforms do not remove, they are sent to the Office of the Inspector General for further action.
Prior to the spike in fraud attempts, SBA’s public affairs office was monitoring with a main focus on gauging the sentiment in discussions related to the agency. But because they were already in that space, it allowed them to step in at a crucial time when bad actors wanted to take advantage of small businesses — to help minimize any damage.
“If public affairs wasn’t on board with us, I don’t think we would have been as successful,” Saunders said.