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WASHINGTON – The SBA has reported receiving a number of calls from small business owners who say phony `lenders’ are asking for upfront payments to be considered for a disaster loan. Disaster survivors have reported receiving calls from individuals claiming to represent SBA, asking for upfront payments of as much as $3,000 to be considered for a disaster loan. Others are also using newspaper ads promoting help with disaster loan applications for “a small processing fee” of up to $250. In Mississippi, residents and business owners have reported seeing roadside signs advertising help with disaster loan applications for a fee, the agency reported. The SBA said it does not charge fees for the processing of disaster loans. The federal government has set up a Hurricane Relief Fraud Hotline. Residents and business owners who have knowledge of fraud can call 1-866-720-5721, send a fax to 1-703-604-8567, or e-mail the hot line at [email protected] SBA Administrator Hector Barreto warned “those who are found taking advantage of the disadvantaged will be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law provides.”

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