Better Business Bureau has received two recent complaints about advance fee loan scammers who are falsely associating themselves with BBB. In both cases, the scammers demanded upfront payments via Green Dot cards, claimed BBB was taking payment for old debt.
Both scam companies used names containing the word “Cash” and one pretended to represent real online payday lender Cash Net USA.
First of all, legitimate lenders do not ask for upfront payments before they will issue loans and being asked to wire money is a huge red flag. It’s like sending cash — you’ll never see it again.
Second of all, BBB is not a debt collection service and would not ask for or take advance fees from someone seeking a loan.
In one instance, the victim was told to send a $700 payment to secure a loan. The scammers then called back and said BBB had seized the $700 to pay back taxes and he needed to send another $300 to get a $10,000 loan.
In the second instance the victim wired the scammers $900 in three separate payments. The scammers also claimed that BBB had seized a payment “to collect an old debt” and even provided a fake BBB representative to talk to on the phone.
Both victims were conned using some previously obtained personal information, making them believe the company was a legitimate lender. Both received calls after previously filling out online forms stating that they were seeking loans.
When these things happen, I like to give the scammers a call, rake them over the coals a little and let them know BBB is aware of what they’re doing.
I called the first company with a number I got from the consumer and spoke to “Christopher Washington,” who told me I could get a loan that day. I got him to admit that I might have to wire money upfront and I then told him I was with BBB and we had received complaints about the practice.
I asked for business contact information, which he refused to give. Then he hung up on me.
Next day the consumer called the scammers back saying he might be willing to pay the additional $300. He then put me on a three-way call and told the scammer he had someone on the line who wanted to talk to him.
I had a nice “Frank” conversation with a guy who claimed to be Frank Johnson, who admitted consumers were being asked to send money via Green Dot cards. He claimed to be collecting money to make sure old debts were paid and “to show you have money to pay.” He claimed to be “working with BBB collection insurance.”
I then told him I was a BBB investigator and demanded to know his contacts with BBB since he was claiming an affiliation. He got so mad he told me he had my bank information (he doesn’t) and threatened to take $700 out of my account before he hung up. Nice.
A couple of days later, I called the fraudulent BBB number provided by the second customer and got a “Jake Richards,” who pretended to be a BBB representative. I told him I was a BBB investigator and demanded to know where his office was located. He said “California.” When I asked what city, he hung up.
I am not sure if the two schemes are operated by the same people, but they are essentially the same – advance fee loan scams. Those are pretty common unfortunately, but the BBB claim is a new twist, one we’d like to nip in the bud.
Cash Net USA’s parent company, Fort Worth-based Cash America International, Inc. has a security alert warning about advance fee loan scams using their business information.
BBB offers the following advice when looking for a personal loan:
- Don’t do business with someone who calls with a loan offer you never asked for. Financial institutions don’t work that way. You have to apply and be approved for credit.
- Don’t trust someone who says you’re “guaranteed” a loan and asks for money in advance for insurance or other fees. They are operating illegally.
- Beware of applying for a loan through an unfamiliar website. The application could be run by a scammer who will either take your money directly or sell your information to other scammers.
- Don’t do business with someone who cannot give you an address you can confirm as legitimate.
- Carefully read any contract documents and make sure you understand all requirements before you enter any loan agreement.
- Don’t trust a website or loan document just because it “looks official.” Sophisticated, official-documents and websites are easy to copy or fake. Just because a business looks legitimate, doesn’t mean it is.