Great-grandmother in Greece keeps getting billed for curious COVID loan

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GREECE, N.Y. – We’re trying to help a great-grandmother whose husband just went into a nursing home. Judy Zdanowski keeps getting official looking letters saying she owes hundreds for a COVID business loan.

But as we learned, it’s hard to tell whether it’s a fraud or a scam.

“Someone told me about channel 10 and you,” Zdanowski told News10NBC Tuesday afternoon.

That’s what brought chief investigative reporter Berkeley Brean to her kitchen table in Greece.

Here’s the problem. She keeps getting a bill from the U.S. Small Business Administration demanding payment of $336 for a COVID loan.

Judy Zdanowski of Greece has been told to pay back a business loan – that she never took out. (Photo: Berkeley Brean/WHEC)

There’s a loan number — which we blacked out — and a name: Zdanowski Heating and Electrical.

Her husband was in the electrical union for 60 years.

Judy Zdanowski of Greece: “His whole career.”

Berkeley Brean, chief investigative reporter: “Never the owner of a company.”

Zdanowski: “Never. We didn’t know what to do. So he said call the police or go to the police station, which I did.”

Brean: “And you must have asked him – did you ever open a business? A heating and electrical business?”

Zdanowski: “Oh, I know he didn’t. I’ve lived with him 63 years.”

SBA loans kept small businesses in business during COVID. A report in June found 17 percent of loans were fraudulent, leading to 1,000 indictments, 800 arrests, and 500 convictions.

The SBA website says there are phishing scams that attempt to use the SBA logo.

Zdanowski gave most of the letters to Greece Police, but these problems aren’t local police cases. She was reluctant to call the number in the letter for fear it was a scam. But we checked, and the number is legitimate.

So we called together, and we helped Zdanowski with a question.

“Does it look like a fraud?” she asked the operator.

The agent was professional but didn’t say “yes” or “no.” She could only direct Zdanowski to file a fraud alert online.

Brean: “So what did you think of that?”

Zdanowski: “It’s overwhelming to me. I don’t do anything online, no banking, no nothing.”

Brean: “And yet, in order to deal with this, that’s what they’re asking you to do.”

Zdanowski: “Yes.”

The SBA fraud team is looking into this. The SBA called Zdanowski and one other family member this afternoon, and that’s the extent to what they could share with us Thursday.

We looked into the amount of COVID loan fraud. In Western New York, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 22 people in 16 cases with actual losses of more than $40 million.