COVID-19 farm loan fraud crops up in Anchorage
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In the heart of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, Ira Perman carries a pitchfork and shields his head from a cloudless, 70-degree day under a ball cap as he gives a tour of his yard.
“Take a look at this vista,” he said, sweeping his free arm across the field of view, showing off a well-kept grassy lawn and a small greenhouse tucked against a fence line. “This is the back 40.”
Perman is among a growing number of fraud victims whose names and addresses were successfully used to qualify for COVID-19 small business disaster relief loans.
He met with Alaska’s News Source Tuesday after the investigative team inquired about a $24,100 Economic Injury Disaster Loan approved for “Ira Perman Farm” located his home address in the city’s Spenard neighborhood.
The U.S. Small Business Administration made the loan data available in December. The nonprofit Accountable.US, and other organizations, then made that data searchable.
The “Ira Perman Farm” shows up as one of the approved loans in the searchable data set and in the SBA’s original data sets, also available online.
“What a shock that was. I did check my bank account and it never made it into there,” Perman said. “But somebody applied in the name of the Perman Farm for $24,100 to support a farm in Anchorage, Alaska. So, go figure that.”
“They had my name spelled right,” he continued. “And they had my home address was correct. So it’s a bit shocking. It certainly makes me wonder how that happened.”
In July 2020, the SBA Inspector General warned of Serious Concerns of Potential Fraud in the SBA’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
“Accounts established using stolen identities” and “economic injury loan funds made to agricultural businesses being deposited in accounts of unrelated third parties located in different states than the business,” were among the specific concerns identified in the report.
As of May 20, the SBA has approved more than $208 billion nationwide for COVID-19 economic injury disaster loan assistance. Of that, more than $484 million has been approved for applicants from Alaska.
Alaska’s News Source also found two other cases of individuals from Anchorage whose identities were used to scam the loan program.
The SBA advises individuals who are aware of fraud, or are victims of fraud, to file a complaint online. Individuals who believe they are victims of identity theft need to take additional steps, outlined in this letter from the SBA.
Perman said when he called the local SBA office, they encouraged him to be proactive.
“I was told to look over your credit report and look for credit searches done by the SBA,” he said. “The SBA, before they issued the loan did a credit search on my credit, to see if I was good for this loan. And it shows up that there was a search. So do it yourself a favor, and look over your credit reports to see if the SBA has done a search of your credit.”
For now, the loan debt itself hasn’t shown up on Perman’s credit history, but he’s more closely monitoring now. The steps taken to report the fraud will help ensure the government doesn’t try to recover the funds from him.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying the fruits of his small home garden: flowers planted by his wife, a robust rhubarb plant, a single apple tree.
“We have a greenhouse, which is 4 feet by 6 feet,” he said. “And inside the greenhouse is weeds. That’s about the extent of my garden.”
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