FINANCIAL

Suspected fraud in business loans rises

U.S. banks and credit unions reported skyrocketing levels of suspected business-loan fraud last month, a period that coincided with growing awareness of scams involving government small-business aid programs.

Financial institutions filed 1,922 suspicious-activity reports involving business-loan fraud in August, data from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network show. That is about 14 times the monthly average for the six years beginning in 2014, the earliest date for which data is available. It is the fourth consecutive monthly record.

The statistics do not show what is causing the spike in reports. Neither FinCEN nor the Small Business Administration’s inspector general said they could comment on a potential link.

But the reports coincide with a wave of applications for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which has distributed more than $200 billion and which the agency’s inspector general, Hannibal Ware, warned in July is plagued by “pervasive fraudulent activity.” They also coincide with the last days of another SBA program, the $525 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which concluded on Aug. 8.

The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based nonprofit, published an article earlier this month noting the spike in business-loan fraud reports through July and their potential connection to SBA programs.

— Bloomberg News

RETAIL

Target shifts hiring to contactless services

Target said on Thursday it would double its staff for contactless services and hire more seasonal employees for distribution centers this holiday season, as consumers shop more online to avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, one of the retailers benefiting from the big shift to online shopping during the health crisis, said it expected seasonal hiring to be on par with last year, when it hired more than 130,000 store employees.

Consumers have been increasingly shopping online and either have items delivered to their homes or collect them at a nearby store as they stay indoors.

According to a forecast from Deloitte, e-commerce sales are expected to record a 25 percent to 35 percent rise in the 2020 holiday season, traditionally the busiest time of the year.

During the first half of the year, more than 10 million new customers shopped on Target’s website and demand for same-day fulfillment options quadrupled, the retailer said, leading it to train more staff in areas that are in demand such as “drive up and order pickup.”

Distribution centers will send more inventory to stores than usual to make sure in-demand items are well stocked, and to ensure smooth operation the company said it would hire more full-time and seasonal warehouse team members.

Target said it would pay its seasonal staff a starting wage of $15 per hour along with coronavirus health and wellness benefits. Staffers at the front of its stores will focus on safety and cleaning, and greeting shoppers.

— Reuters

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— From news services