Sat, April 04

Police investigate loan fraud

Good credit, bad credit, no problem. The familiar pitch used by finance companies that sounds too good to be true sometimes is.

The Better Business Bureau and other watchdog groups warn consumers against such advertisements saying that some companies promising advance-fee loans are not reputable and in many cases consumers who utilize their services may end up losing any advance fees.

The Cottonwood Police Department recently reported that an advance-fee loan fraud might have occurred in Cottonwood. According to a police report regarding the incident, the suspect company is Home Life Finance and is based in Canada. The report states that the victims in the case lost a total of $1,100.

"Canadian authorities have had problems with this company," Cottonwood Detective Steve Butler said.

According to police, the couple saw an ad for the company in The Verde Independent. They reportedly called the company and were eventually told they were approved for a loan but would have to send $1,100.

The victims reportedly sent the money in late August and have been unable to contact the company since.

Barry Elliott, detective staff sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police and coordinator of Phonebusters, an international call center that monitors scams, said Home Life Finance has had four complaints against them and that situations like this are occurring frequently. He said advanced-fee loan scams are unique to Canada but these companies advertise in the United States.

While it is best to borrow locally, he said it can be difficult for consumers to know whom they are dealing with when companies use only toll-free numbers.

"Be careful when you're dealing over the phone," Elliott warned.

Butler said the Cottonwood police turned all information over to Canadian authorities regarding the local case. Cottonwood police won't investigate because if an actual crime occurred, it would have been when the money arrived in Canada, even though the company's ad appeared locally.

"It's not a crime to put an ad in a newspaper," Butler said. "It's a crime not to follow through."

Home Life Finance did not respond to phone calls by press time.

Butler suggests that when dealing with any finance company it is important to get current phone numbers and addresses for the company and check it out with the BBB. He said the Cottonwood police deal with many fraud cases each year, but if the company is not local, there isn't much they can do.

According to the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus Web site, the CBBB has received five to 10 calls a day from victims or near victims of advance-fee loan scams each day. Many of the victims are from the United States.

The BBB offers these tips for dealing with loan and credit companies:

• Legitimate lenders never guarantee a loan before the consumer applies.

• It is important to remember never to give out social security numbers, bank or credit card information over the phone or Internet unless the company is a familiar one.

• Always have the offer confirmed in writing before paying any money.

For more information or advice on dealing with advance-fee loan companies, call Phonebusters at 1-888-495-8501.

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