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Avoiding Online Lending Scams

A large part of our practice is going after debt collectors, credit card companies, banks and mortgage companies when they break the rules. However there are times where we also help clients who are the victim of small time criminals. It always breaks my heart when I meet with a potential client and find out that they were scammed when there was something I could have done to help if they come to me first. Frequently we are able to help them but the best help of all is not falling victim to these sorts of scams. Here is some advice which could have helped one of our client’s avoid a big headache.

Be Skeptical by Default: Trying to get a loan from any website you are not confident about is a risky proposition. Assume by default that the website you are trying to borrow money from is a scam.

Call Them: Any legitimate lending organization will have a call center that they staff during normal business hours. Search their webpage for a phone number and call them. If they do not have a 1-800 number available as one of their options it is probably a scam. Ask the person on the other end where they are physically located, if they won’t tell you it is definitely a scam. If they sound unsure, it is probably a scam. Just because they have a phone number does not mean they are legitimate however, many con artists are willing to speak with you on the phone. Some people believe that if someone has a phone number they must have a physical address and therefore are not con artists, this belief is false. Due to the advancement of telecommunications technology it is becoming increasingly easy for criminals to maintain a phone number while hiding their physical location.

Call Again: Any legitimate lending organization will have phones manned by many people and a switch board which routes calls through randomly between them. If when you call the number again you speak to the same person a second time that indicates that it may not actually be a call center and suggests it is a scam.

Does Their Website Look Professional? Criminals can and do make professional looking websites to trick people. Simply having a professional website does not mean that a website is legitimate. However having a website which looks old and outdated is a strong indication that it is probably a scam. If any of the buttons or links on the website do not work, it is probably a scam.

Do They Ask For Bank Account Information? Few legitimate lenders will ask for your bank information to wire you money before determining you are eligible for a loan. If they ask for your bank account number as part of their initial application, it is probably a scam. Many scam websites include detailed applications that you have to fill out and among those questions is your banking information. Do not under any circumstances provide your banking information to a website you are not certain is legitimate.

Do Not Send Them Money: If they ask you to send them money as “collateral” or for “good faith” it is almost certainly a scam.

Just Don’t Do It: The internet is filled with con artists and scam websites offering people loans. While there are legitimate websites which will do this, the overwhelming majority of them are scams. If you have urgent money problems and need money quickly I would strongly discourage you from trying to get a loan from a website. As much as I have written about the wrongdoing of banks and credit card companies in other Blog posts(and I have written about that a lot), they will rarely take your money and run for the hills.

This document has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any legal issues related to the matters discussed in this article as the applicability of state, local and federal laws may vary.