A few pedestrians walk down Main Street in Bangor in this March 27, 2020, file photo. The sidewalks have been sparsely populated since people have been asked to self isolate due to the coronavirus. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office is warning small-business owners of another emerging scam targeting those who are seeking payroll relief through the new Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act.

The loan program is designed to help employers keep staff on the payroll through the coronavirus crisis.

Collins said the scammers are calling business owners and telling them falsely that they need to pay a fee in order to apply for the paycheck protection program loan. That, Collins said, is wrong and that there is no fee to apply for the assistance.

“This scam is another reminder of how ruthless criminals are in seeking to steal from hard working Americans during a time of economic hardship,” Collins said in a statement.

[How Maine small businesses can navigate new coronavirus aid programs]

Collins, a Republican, worked on the business relief package as part of the Small Business Task Force, along with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire.

Collins is urging anyone who gets such a call to hang up and then call a special fraud hotline her committee has established at 1-855-303-9470 to report the incident.

A number of agencies, including the Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission, say there has been a surge of scams since Congress passed a $2 trillion funding package to fight the coronavirus and stimulate the economy, including scams targeting individuals who might be receiving stimulus deposits, seeking tax, mortgage and other relief, as well as an uptick in viruses, malware and phishing attacks.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.