November 20, 2023
You've reached this page because I've made the decision to close down the PPP Detective website.
Here are some resources which might help you find what you're looking for:
Should you need information on a specific PPP loan, I suggest visiting the database provided by ProPublica, a non-profit organization at https://projects.propublica.org/coronavirus/bailouts/.
- Researchers from accredited academic institutions interested in accessing the fraud data from the PPP Detective website can get in touch with me via email at email@example.com (300k reports on 75k loans).
- If you are looking to report a fraudulent PPP loan, you can do so directly to the SBA at https://www.sba.gov/partners/contracting-officials/contract-administration/report-fraud-waste-abuse.
- If you are interested in learning more about the ongoing efforts to combat pandemic related fraud, I recommend the following government website: https://www.pandemicoversight.gov/.
For those curious about the backstory of PPP Detective, the reasons behind its inception, and my reflections, I welcome you to read further.
The idea for PPP Detective came to me in 2020, during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis. My own businesses were significantly affected by the ensuing lockdowns and economic downturn. Alongside over a million other business owners, I sought aid through the PPP. Concerns over potential fraud were immediate given the program's rapid deployment and lack of stringent controls. The situation was compounded by the Small Business Administration (SBA) issuing new guidance and rules bi-weekly.
A slew of fintech companies rolled out streamlined online applications for PPP loans. Regrettably, the process was entirely automated, lacking human oversight for error or fraud checks. This opacity led to applicants being uninformed about rejection reasons, forcing them to guess and reapply amidst fierce competition from legitimate businesses and fraudsters alike, all vying for a finite pool of money.
Moreover, the program inadvertently incentivized these fintech firms to ignore fraudulent activity since they were compensated per loan distributed, and specifically allowed to rely on applicant-supplied information without a mandate for due diligence.
When data on the PPP loans finally was released to the public by the SBA, the fears of widespread fraud were confirmed. Reviewing local businesses that received loans, I spotted clear fabrications. Recognizing that local familiarity aided fraud detection, I established PPP Detective to harness communal knowledge. While not every report was accurate, many illuminated fraudulent activity, and the community's response was overwhelmingly positive. Media attention and growing site visits correlated with a steady influx of fraud reports, totaling over 300,000 for 75,000 loans.
Not everyone was happy with the site. I received hundreds of threatening emails and phone calls, and even one death threat, all of which I'd be lying to say didn't influence my decision to shutter the website.
In conclusion, the objectives of the PPP Detective website have largely been realized. Law enforcement at all levels has taken on the task of investigating PPP fraud. Numerous convictions have been secured, crime rings exposed, and the SBA has acknowledged the extent of fraud that occurred. With the pandemic behind us and no future PPP loans forthcoming, I felt it was time to retire PPP Detective.
November 20, 2023