UK watchdogs have launched an investigation involving over 200 lenders in an effort to nab a large network of fraudsters that has been targeting vulnerable borrowers in the UK.
One such borrower, Peter Elliot aged 75 was conned £200 as he tried to hunt for a £1000 loan to go for a Christmas trip.
According to a Sunday People investigation, bogus payday loan companies in the UK are targeting the elderly and vulnerable conning them approximately £3.5 Million a Year.
According to the probe, the conmen offer short-term loans to old and desperate people but demand upfront payment (to act as insurance) before issuing the loan. The cons simply pocket the upfront payment without issuing any loan leaving their victims hundreds of pounds poorer. They have concealed addresses hosted abroad and bearing details cloned from respectable institutions operating in the UK.
One popular scam involves asking unsuspecting victims to purchase iTunes vouchers and send the redemption code as insurance.
Peter Elliot was a victim of the iTunes Voucher scam. The scammers promised him a £1000 loan if he bought a £200 iTunes voucher as insurance for the loan. The crooks use the voucher codes to purchase goods or sell the codes online. Peter Elliot, a dad of six, was targeted as he was looking for a short-term loan to go and visit friends during Christmas.
He handed over iTunes vouchers worth over £200 but got nothing in return. The retiree from Mexborough, Doncaster couldn’t believe he had been scammed. The scammers were so friendly and charming he couldn’t believe they conned people. Elliot admitted to feeling stupid after he was conned and blames it on being vulnerable.
In April 2018, the FCA issued an alert on loan fraud stating unsuspecting borrowers were falling for fee scams amounting to £3.5million per year. The regulator claimed incidences of fraud had increased by 44% since 2016. In 2017 alone, there were more than 4,700 loan fee swindles reported to Action Fraud.
227 enquires have been launched to investigate fraudulent lenders since 2015. According to an Action Fraud spokesman, any person required to pay upfront fees to access loans or credit services is at risk of falling prey to loan fee fraudsters. Research shows that loan fee scammers target financially vulnerable individuals who are desperate to get loans.
Research also shows that most loan fee fraud victims are 38 and above with low incomes, low credit ratings and limited access to typical credit.
Action Fraud assesses all loan fee fraud reports received and in most cases, takes action against entities breaching the watchdog’s rules.
Precautions to take
According to Resolver.co.uk expert, Martyn James, scammers emerge everywhere when money is tight. According to Martyn James, it is easier to con a person who is desperate for money because they are willing to do more.
James advices borrowers to sick to FCA regulated firms since it is easy to launch a complaint via the financial ombudsman if the regulated firm you are dealing with fails to keep their end of the deal. It is crucial to note that there are some FCA-regulated financial services firms which ask for upfront fees (approximately £50) before offering credit broking facilities. So, not all firms which ask for upfront fees are fraudulent. It is up to a borrower to choose the firm they want to deal with although; it is advisable to avoid paying upfront fees.
In case you find yourself a victim of loan fee scams, you should act immediately. If you have transferred money via your bank, call your bank immediately and request for a recall of the funds. If you have already bought vouchers, contact the firm which supplies the voucher immediately and request that the code is suspended or cancelled and claim a refund. If the firm refuses to cancel the code, launch a complaint against the firm immediately.
Loan related fraud must be acted upon immediately if you wish to get a favourable outcome. Even if you have already been conned, the least you can do is launch a complaint. Notifying the relevant authority can save someone else from a similar fraudulent scheme. It can also help apprehend the fraudsters. It is not advisable to accept and move on although most victims of fraud don’t report to avoid embarrassment.
Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.