Consumers nationwide continue to be victimized by sophisticated loan scams that demand up-front fees for loans that are never delivered. In the past few weeks, thieves using fabricated addresses across the country have stolen tens of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting borrowers, many of them desperate for money to help pay bills, buy medicine or forestall home foreclosures.
These schemes victimize desperate people who go online searching for a loan.
In the most recent scam, thieves are using the name (Blazer Financial Services) and address of a former loan company that has been out of business in the Macon area for many years. Similar scams around the nation have used hundreds of company names and addresses to dupe consumers.
In virtually all cases, the consumer said he or she applied for a loan online and was then contacted by phone or e-mail.
Scammers demanded that consumers take out insurance coverage on the loans by loading cash onto Green Dot MoneyPak cards and then forwarding the access codes. Usually, they demand between $600 and $3,000 to secure the loan. After receiving the first payment, the scammers demand additional payments until their victims run out of money or catch on.
Such Green Dot transactions are difficult to trace. Other phony loan companies have used Western Union or MoneyGram to obtain payments.
The scammers use authentic-looking loan documents and elaborate Web sites, but it is illegal for any company making loans by phone to take up-front fees.
Typically, the phony loan businesses change their names and addresses every two to three weeks in attempts to keep a step ahead of law enforcement, the Better Business Bureau and angry victims.
The BBB offers the following advice when looking for a personal loan:
• Be wary of applying for online loans through unfamiliar businesses or Web sites. Many of these sites are run by scammers or by people who sell your information to scammers.
• Do not send money by wire transfer or prepaid card. Once it is sent, you have very little recourse.
• Understand that any business operating by phone and charging insurance or other fees in advance of making a loan is operating illegally.
• Do not do business with anyone who cannot give you an address that you can confirm.
• Make sure you understand all requirements before entering an agreement.
If you’ve been victimized, file complaints with:
• Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
• Internet Crime Complaint Center (iC3) at www.ic3.gov if the scheme occurred online or by e-mail.
• Your state’s Office of Consumer Protection or Attorney General’s Office.
• Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org.
• If you were asked to wire money to Canada, file a complaint with Canadian law enforcement by calling (888) 495-8501 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
REACH KELVIN COLLINS, THE PRESIDENT/CEO OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF CENTRAL GEORGIA AND THE CSRA INC., AT (800) 763-4222 OR WWW.BBB.ORG.