Your Guide to Cash Advance Scams
Don’t give out your personal information and watch out for excessive upfront fees or collectors calling about debts you’ve already paid.
It’s a new year and we’ve got a new resolution for you: don’t get scammed. This year, be on the look out for the “cash advance” scam. This can mean a lot of different things, so we’ll give you a brief tour of the scummy underbelly of cash advance scams so you can recognize the warning signs.
Wait, what is a cash advance?
Before we get into cash advance scams, let’s talk about cash advance loans, which can take many forms. At the most narrow, accurate, and specific level, a cash advance loan is a cash loan you take out using your credit card. It has to be within your credit limit and it often comes with fees and not insignificant interest.
(Plus, with a cash advance, there’s no grace period on interest like there is with a regular credit card purchase. You start accruing that “not insignificant” interest the second the advance is made.)
The term “cash advance” is used a lot.
Predatory lenders offering payday loans and title loans will also use the term “cash advance” to refer to the products they offer. These sorts of lenders don’t tend to care about your credit score and some don’t even require any proof of income. They do tend to charge exorbitant fees and interest rates well beyond what you’d pay on a normal cash advance—so this could be considered the first sort of “cash advance scam.”
Avoiding predatory bad credit loans is a matter of looking out for the proper warning signs. Maybe you don’t have a great credit score, so you can’t qualify for a “traditional” loan. That’s all right. It’s still important to not settle for just any lender.
Although these predatory lenders may try to gain a sense of legitimacy by calling themselves “cash advance” places, you shouldn’t be fooled. If they don’t care about your credit score or your income or your bank account, then that means they aren’t too concerned about whether you’ll be able to pay them back or not.
Odds are, the fees for not being able to pay these loans back on time are so high that they’ll be fine with you never actually paying it off. The longer you stay stuck in a cycle of debt, the more money they stand to make.
Big upfront fees.
Another, similar, kind of cash advance scam is charging you a large upfront fee to get the loan. You’re trying to get money, so why should you be giving them money?!
And of course, just because they’re charging you an exorbitant upfront fee doesn’t mean they won’t charge you other exorbitant fees afterward. If anything, it’s even more likely. After all, once you’re a predatory lender, why not really commit to the bit?
Beware who is on the other line.
You’re at home eating dinner when suddenly you get a call. Could it be a friend of yours? NO. It’s someone calling to offer you a cash advance loan. Don’t do it. Just hang up. You probably hang up on telemarketers anyway, but now you can do so with the knowledge that they might have been trying to scam you.
If you’ve applied for a loan from somewhere and they call about your application, that’s fine. Maybe you don’t want them disturbing you at dinner, but at least they’re calling for a good reason. Someone who calls you out of the blue and tries to offer you a no credit check loan, however, is certainly not to be trusted.
Don’t trust people who contact you online either.
Remember what we just said about phone calls? All of that goes double (or triple!) for email and other online offers.
Hopefully, you’re already very careful about where you enter your financial information online, but there is no shortage of scammers who will try to take your money—through “cash advance” promises or other shady offers.
Don’t worry, you can definitely find a good online loan, but you should do your homework on all the lenders out there and look at their reviews to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of. We’ve covered what to look out for a few times before.
And if someone tries to offer you a cash advance in an email? Don’t click on any of the links, don’t even open the message. They might be trying to hack into your computer through a process called “phishing.” Just delete the email—and do so with extreme prejudice.
Watch out for fake debt collectors.
Last year, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions released a warning about various entities using the name “cash advance” to carry out a phone scam. The caller will claim that they are collecting on a cash advance loan and require payment. They’ll then become belligerent and demand your payment information, threatening to seize your assets if you don’t comply. Other threats might include legal action, wage garnishment, or even arrest.
A situation like that can be can be scary, even if you know for a fact that you don’t have any overdue bills or collections notices against you. And the most important thing you can do when receiving one of these calls is to stand your ground. No matter how much they threaten you, do not give in.
Thankfully, the Better Business Bureau has a list of actions to take if you receive a cash advance collection scam call:
- “Just hang up: If you don’t have any outstanding loans, hang up. Don’t press any numbers or speak to an ‘agent.’
- “Ask the debt collector to provide official ‘validation notice’ of the debt. In the U.S. and most of Canada, debt collectors are required by law to provide information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
- “Ask the caller for his/her name, company, street address, and telephone number. Then, confirm that the collection agency is real.
- “Do not provide or confirm bank account, credit card, or other personal information over the phone until you have verified the call.
- “Check your credit report. In the US, check with one of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian). In Canada, check with Equifax Canada. This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity.
- “Place a fraud alert on your credit report. If the scammer has personal information, place a fraud alert with the three national credit reporting companies.”
Follow all of these steps, and you’ll be a scam-stopping machine!
For more ways to avoid getting scammed or otherwise taken advantage of, check out these related pages and articles from OppLoans:
- Don’t Let a Phishing Scam Lead to Bad Credit!
- How to Avoid Scam Contractors and Fake Charities Post-Natural Disaster
- How to Handle an Unexpected Bill
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