BBB Warns Against Online Florida Loan Scams
By Aubrey Sitler
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Pensacola, Florida, is warning residents not to fall for online scams from a company claiming to be a personal loan provider, but consumers everywhere should heed their advice.
Tammy Ward, an employee at the Pensacola BBB, told a local news station that a customer had recently submitted an inquiry about a company claiming to be a loan provider. The customer, who remains anonymous, had received mail from the so-called loan firm that included a document the company was asking them to complete in order to receive a loan. The customer was skeptical and contacted the BBB because the document was so poorly written. It also included a note that the BBB would have the right to change the loan amount due to its authority over the loan firm at any time.
“It actually had a lot of information on it that we were really concerned about,” Ward reported. “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.”
Additionally, The owner of the Ft. Walton Beach address out of which the loan firm claimed to operate said that the building in question was not occupied by any such business.
The company’s website was taken down recently, but the BBB took screenshots of it before it disappeared. “We compared it with another legitimate site accredited through our BBB of San Francisco,” said Ward. “They basically copied and pasted most of the information on the legitimate site onto their site.”
The Pensacola BBB investigated the case further by calling the phone number listed on the website. They asked the person who answered about the company’s address. “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,” Ward said. “We could not confirm that.”
The BBB also learned of an apparent twist in the scam: Victimized borrowers who agreed to the loan terms were not asked to give the scam artists money up front. Instead, the fake company would wait to get the person on the phone before stealing their money. “[Instead] of transferring money into [a bank] account, they would have been transferring money out of [the] account,” Ward explained.