Beware of advertisements for "advance-fee" or "guaranteed" consumer and small-business loans. This brochure tells how to recognize ads for advance-fee loan scams and how to distinguish them from offers by legitimate credit grantors. It also tells you how to protect yourself, what to do if you are a victim, and where you can find low-cost help in dealing with credit problems.
Some companies claim they can guarantee you a loan for a fee paid in advance. The fee may range from $100 to several hundred dollars. Small businesses have been charged as much as several thousand dollars as an advance fee for a loan. But whether you are an individual consumer or a small business owner, the result is the same: once the con artists have your money, they disappear and you never get your loan.
Do not confuse advance-fee loan schemes with legitimate offers of credit from mortgage brokers, banks, savings and loans, and credit unions. Legitimate credit grantors may charge fees to process your loan application, but they will not guarantee that you will qualify for a loan. Illicit advance-fee loan schemes, on the other hand, either promise or strongly suggest that a loan will be provided in exchange for an up-front fee. Salespeople for such companies also may verbally promise that some or all of your advance fee will be refunded if your application is unsuccessful.
Some fraudulent companies also may claim that your advance fee will be credited toward repayment of the loan. Usually none of these claims is true.
Be wary of advertising that claims that bad credit is no problem in getting you a loan. If money is not available to you through traditional lending institutions, it is unlikely to become available in response to a classified ad.
Be cautious of lenders who use "800" and "900" numbers. You may call an "800" number which then directs you to dial a "900" number. You pay for "900" number calls, of course, and the charges may be high.
Check out the company. Contact your local consumer protection agency and the state Attorney General's Office to learn if they have received any complaints about companies offering advance-fee loans. Keep in mind, however, that suspect companies often establish their operations in one state, advertise heavily for only a few months, collect their loan fees, only to close up shop and move on to another state before complaints are registered and local authorities have a chance to act. Therefore, just because your local consumer protection agency has no complaints on file does not mean that an advance-fee loan business is legitimate.
You also may file a complaint with the FTC by writing to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580. Although the FTC generally does not intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may help to indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission.
National Foundation for Consumer Credit 8611 Second Avenue, Suite 100 Silver Spring, MD 20910 (301) 589-5001
In addition, non-profit counseling programs sometimes are operated by universities, military bases, credit unions, and housing authorities. They are likely to charge little or nothing for their assistance. Or, you can check with your local bank or consumer protection office to see if it has a listing of reputable, low-cost financial counseling services.
Automatic Debit Scams
"Gold""and "Platinum" Credit Cards
Land Sales Scams
Telemarketing Travel Fraud
Job Ads, Job Scams and "900"Numbers
Telephone Investment Fraud
Magazine Telephone Scams
Water Testing Scams
Credit Repair Scams
If you want any of these free publications, or a complete listing of all FTC consumer and business publications, contact: Public Reference, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580; (202) 326-2222.
FTC CONSUMER & SMALL BUSINESS ADVISORY - PUBLIC DOCUMENT
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