Two online businesses claiming false Austin, Texas addresses are using bogus loan offers to extract upfront payments from consumers. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin warns consumers to beware of loan offers from Cash Advance USA and Fast Cash Loan USA.
Consumer complaints about both businesses allege that they were contacted after filling out online loan applications. Some consumers stated they filled out forms on websites for Fast Cash Loan USA and Cash Advance USA. Others stated they filled out forms on other websites that appeared to be unrelated. Consumers say they were told to make upfront payments using pre-paid cards, but never received the loans.
Cash Advance USA, www.cashadvanceusa.net claims in the “about us” section of its website to be located at 401 Congress Avenue, Suite 1545—a non-existent suite number in the Frost Bank Building. A BBB investigator contacted the company responsible for leasing office space in the building and was told the building has no such suite number.
Fast Cash Advance USA, www.fastcashloanusa.com, claims in its loan confirmation form to be located at 402 Congress Avenue, Suite 9600—402 Congress Avenue is a paved commercial lot across the street from the Frost Bank Building.
These fake addresses in the vicinity of a banking institution may lead some consumers to believe they are communicating with a bank. In addition, because many payday loan companies have names including the word “cash,” consumers may confuse Cash Advance USA and Fast Cash Loan USA with other companies they are more familiar with.
BBB left a phone message with Cash Advance USA, which was not returned. A message to an email address provided by a consumer returned undeliverable. Fast Cash Loan USA, has no address, email or phone number on its website. However, BBB sent an investigation letter through the form on its website and has not received a response.
Cash Advance USA has a scam alert on the “contact us” page of its website stating that it does not loan money directly and that callers seeking advance payment for loans on their behalf do not represent them. However, consumers who complained to BBB have stated they called the contact number listed on the website to discuss their loan.
Edward Bray of Oklahoma says he lost over $1,400 in advance fees while seeking a loan from Cash Advance USA. After filling out an online application, he says he received a contract by email and a call from people claiming to be offering an $8,000 loan on behalf of Cash Advance USA. Bray claimed the caller demanded several upfront payments via pre-paid cards until he eventually refused. He was hoping to obtain a loan to help buy a house.
“They called and I sent them what they wanted,” Bray said. “They said they couldn’t take the fee out of my bank account and asked me to put it on a card. Three payments later I told them I couldn’t pay any more — $1,400 is a big chunk of cash for me.”
The money he lost had a devastating effect. “I almost lost my family,” Bray said. “I lost the home I was in. I lost a vehicle. It was very stressful and very hard. It was a big burden on me, my wife and my kids.”
Therese Lugar of West Mifflin, Pennsylvania says she lost close to $500 after seeking a loan from Fast Cash Loan USA. After filling out an online loan application, Lugar says she got a call from people claiming to be loan officers who convinced her to make several payments using pre-paid MoneyPak cards in order to obtain a $4,000 loan.
“I needed a loan to finish Christmas shopping for my kids and I was kind of desperate,” Lugar said. “They called me and said they were sending my application out to a couple of different lenders. They wanted me to buy a Green Dot card. I borrowed $90 from my mother and put it on the card. They stayed on the phone with me. They said they needed another $100.”
Lugar said the business continued to get additional payments until she had paid out over $400, until she finally refused to pay any more. “They are very good at making you believe them and feel like you’re getting the loan, plus more money in addition,” she said. “I got two people who claimed to be supervisors, who said to write out a police report and said the check was in the mail. At first they would ask for my account number, but I wouldn’t give it to them so they said they were sending a check. They said it would be here in seven to 10 days.”
BBB offers the following advice when looking for a personal loan:
- Be careful where you put your information. Beware of applying for online loans through unfamiliar businesses or websites. Many of these online application sites are run by scammers or by people who sell your information to scammers.
- Don’t pay advance fees. Understand that any business operating by phone and charging insurance or other fees in advance of making a loan is operating illegally.
- Verify the address. Do not do business with anyone who cannot give you an address that you can confirm as legitimate.
- Read the contract. Read any contract carefully and make sure you understand all requirements before entering into any agreement.
- Don’t get tricked by “official-looking.” Official-looking loan documents and sophisticated looking websites are easy to copy or fake. Just because a business appears legitimate, doesn’t mean it is.
- Do your research. Find an Accredited Business using BBB’s Member Pages, and check out the company’s BBB Business Review before purchasing anything from a website.