The local Better Business Bureau is checking into a possible online loan scam, and is warning consumers to do their homework before providing a lender any personal information.
Tammy Ward at the BBB in Pensacola says the case began with a consumer’s inquiry about something called “Cashier Club,” on whose website provided an address in Fort Walton Beach. But when contacted, the owner of the building reported they have not rented to a business with that name.
“It actually had a lot of information on it that we were really concerned about,” said Ward. “One of them was the fact that it had our BBB seal. Only accredited businesses can carry our seal, and they are definitely not accredited. But they also carried the State of Florida Seal, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Seal.”
The consumer, who’s not being identified, was sent a document to complete to receive her loan. It was poorly written and indicated that the BBB has regulation over the company and the right to increase or decrease the loan amount. Ward says they took screen shots of the website last week before it was taken down.
“We compared it with another legitimate site accredited through our BBB of San Francisco,” Ward said. “They basically copied and pasted most of the information on the legitimate site onto their site.”
Investigating further, the local BBB called the phone number listed on the website, and was greeted by someone with a very heavy accent.
“When we asked questions like, ‘we’re looking for your website, we want to see if we qualify for a loan,’ he did not know that the website was down. He told us that the Fort Walton Beach address wasn’t where they actually were; but they did have and brick-and-mortar place in Fort Myers. We could not confirm that.”
The twist in this scam, says Ward, is that once the consumer agreed to terms, the perps were not using the loan document to get money up front. They would be on the phone when they electronically transferred the money into her bank account.
“That concept is the same, if she had given them her banking information and they were talking over the phone,” said Ward. [But] instead of transferring money into her account, they would have been transferring money out of her account.”
Protecting oneself against this different kind of swindle, says the BBB’s Tammy Ward, is a bit of a challenge online. Any website can be copied and pasted for illegal gain. If you need a loan, Ward suggests shopping locally for a lender.
“People that have brick-and-mortar places; look and see if there’s an address and a working phone number,” said Ward. “Due diligence – your money, you work hard for it. You don’t want someone just to take it away from you. And you don’t want to give them any additional help by providing them personal information before you make sure that they are doing the right thing for the right reasons.”
The Better Business Bureau of Northwest Florida have forwarded all documents on “Cashier Club” to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. More information on this scam, and many others, is available at www.bbb.org.