INDIANAPOLIS -- Mandy Marentette of Cloverdale is out $426 as a result of a growing loan scam impacting Indiana consumers.
“I kept getting emails saying I was approved or had been pre-approved,” Marentette said. “I hadn’t even applied for loans.”
One email she opened claimed to be from a local lender about a $20,000 loan she could get at a 5 percent interest rate.
Somehow the scammers obtained her debit card information and charged her $426.
“Maybe because I clicked on it to see what it was about,” Marentette said. “I was really upset because my rent was due. I didn’t know what to do.”
Marentette filed a complaint with the BBB Scam Tracker.
Advanced fee loan scams are a growing problem swindling Indiana consumers out of thousands of their hard earned money, according to the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana.
“It’s a scam that’s growing out there, and a lot of people fall for it, unfortunately,” said Tim Maniscalo, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana.
Advanced fee loan scams are ranked as the fourth-riskiest scam, according to the BBB’s 2017 Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report.
So far this year, the local BBB office has received at least 14 complaints from people victimized by advance fee loan scams.
In the past two years, more than a total of $7,000 have been lost in our area due to this type of scam, according to the BBB.
“It upsets me because we’re out here working for our money and they’re out there stealing it,” Marentette said.
The scammers typically email or call you and say you’ve qualified for a loan.
“You've just got to pay a slight charge up front to get the money,” Maniscalo said. “You're going to pay that charge, and you're never going to get the loan. It's just a fake way to get you to pay some money up front, and you're never going to get the actual money you want."
Pretend loan agents can also get access to your credit card and bank account information.
So, if you get an offer just delete the email or hang up the phone.
As for Marentette’s loan agent, we called his office which was supposedly in Seattle, Washington.
The website did not list an exact street address, and his phone number was a 202 area code, which is designated for the Washington, DC area.
"Why do you have a Washington DC area code if you're in Seattle?" asked Call 6 Investigates.
It was very difficult to understand the person on the other end of the phone.
“I don’t think we can do that, we only give loan,” said the man when Call 6 Investigates asked for a refund for Marentette.
Call 6 Investigates also emailed the loan agent about Marentette’s case, and he initially tried to sell our Kara Kenney on a loan of her own.
“We are a certified, registered and legit lender; we always do our best to make sure we give our clients the best service, our loan interest rate is 5 percent of any amount of loan request for a maximum time duration of 1-20 years,” read the email to Kenney. “Also we would like you to apply through our loan official website below.”
The email provided a link to a website for the loan office.
When Kenney emphasized she was trying to help Marentette get her money back, the loan agent’s responses got shorter.
“Sorry, we are not responsible for the lost (sic),” read the email.
Marentette said she was disappointed to hear the response Call 6 Investigates received.
“I’m at a loss,” Marentette said. “He didn’t even answer like a company. I’m very aggravated at this point.”
The BBB says her money is likely overseas and never coming back.
“Most of these scams originate outside of the united states in countries that are not going to cooperate with the United States in terms of taking these people to court or putting them in jail,” said Maniscalo. “Once it’s gone, unfortunately, it’s gone.”
BBB TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID SCAMS:
- Never send money to someone you have never met face-to-face. Seriously, just don’t ever do it. And don’t do it if they ask you to use wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, or a gift card (those cannot be traced and are as good as cash).
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email. Links can download malware onto your computer and/or steal your identity. Be cautious even with email that looks familiar; it could be fake.
- Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts, and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean that it is. Even Caller ID can be faked.
- Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be shady. Check out the company first at bbb.org. Read reviews about the quality of the merchandise, and make sure you are not buying cheap and/or counterfeit goods.
- Be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Scammers use dating websites, Craigslist, social media, and many other sites to reach potential targets. They can quickly feel like a friend or even a romantic partner, but that is part of the con to get you to trust them.
- Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, even at your front door. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, and Social Security/Social Insurance numbers.
- Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to make you think something is scarce or a limited time offer. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend, or financial advisor. High-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, but it’s never a good idea to make an important decision quickly.
- Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods, services, taxes, and debts. Do not pay by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card, or other non-traditional payment methods. Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, overpayments, and handshake deals without a contract.
- Whenever possible, work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing, and insurance, especially contractors who will be coming into your home or anyone dealing with your money or sensitive information. Check them out at bbb.org to see what other consumers have experienced.
- Be cautious about what you share on social media and consider only connecting with people you already know. Be sure to use privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you.
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