Trading Standards Officers are warning the public of a serious rise in the number of people being defrauded as they try to borrow money.
Many people and businesses are turning to the internet or falling victim to telesales calls offering to provide loans.
Fraudsters suggest they can arrange loans or provide better terms than would normally be available.
They use numerous different trading names, often choosing names which can be confused with those of legitimate, licensed lenders.
They ask for payment upfront to arrange a loan, usually around £100 although officers have heard of cases involving thousands of pounds, in the form of electronic money or international money transfers like Ukash or Western Union, knowing that these methods cannot be traced or reversed.
Some would be borrowers have even been asked to meet at a specified location to handover cash to persons they don’t know.
Eventually people realise the loan won’t turn up or find that fees are taken without consent, sometimes by companies that they have never dealt with.
Once the fraudsters have people’s bank details multiple fees are often taken even after just one loan enquiry.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service has recently received a spate of complaints about a business called “Loans4U” allegedly trading from a fictitious address in Leeds city centre (16 Merrion Centre).
The address is linked to telephone number 01133280111 which, when dialled, cuts straight into an answering service for consumers to leave their details.
Consumers as far away as Glasgow and Coventry have paid considerable sums of money via UKash and have not received their promised loan.
The fraudsters tend to use generic names such as “Best Loans”, “Loan2Loans” and can send convincing emails which even include fake emails from the Financial Conduct Authority “authorising” the loan.
The Consumer Credit Act says that a broker who fails to deliver a promised loan within six months can only keep £5 of the fee taken for their service.
All other monies must be refunded on request from the customer.
Many of the fraudsters originate from outside the country and use fake addresses leaving the public and legitimate credit brokers unprotect by UK law.
Councillor Jayne Booth, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said “Never send money off or give your debit/credit card details to persons you don’t know, or persons you haven’t checked out first. Be wary of requests to wire money to another country or use overseas payment methods.”
If you are in difficulty with debt contact the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 or go on-line at www.nationaldebtline.co.uk
Consumers can report these scams by contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06 or on-line at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.