Don't Pay Up Front to Borrow Holiday Cash

With the holiday season in full swing, many Texans might encounter advertisements promising instant cash loans. Consumers should avoid loan offers that require up-front payments for “taxes” or “processing fees.” Legitimate lenders never ask borrowers to pay money up-front in order to obtain a loan.

Posing as legitimate loan offers, these slick loan promotions often appear online, in newspaper classified ads or on flyers. Some scammers provide a toll-free number for borrowers to call and supposedly speak with someone who claims to be a reputable bank representative. Other con artists send official-looking correspondence guaranteeing a loan for hundreds or even thousands of dollars at a reasonable interest rate.

In both schemes, borrowers are instructed to wire several hundred dollars in advance to cover the loans’ taxes or processing charges. Once consumers send the money, they never hear from the scam artist again.

Many of these schemes give the impression that they are based in the United States. Often, they provide “confirmation” correspondence with a return address in this country. The unfortunate reality is that most scammers are based abroad and use stolen or disposable cell phones that cannot be traced. The correspondence addresses are either nonexistent or anonymous drop boxes. Once money is wired to the scammers, they are able to pick it up from any of thousands of locations around the world, with little chance of being caught.

Consumers who need extra cash over the holidays should consider approaching local lenders to discuss their options in person. Borrowers should also carefully protect their personal information, especially Social Security and bank account numbers. While reputable lenders typically require Social Security numbers and other information to conduct credit checks on a borrower, scam artists often obtain victims’ personal information to perpetrate identity theft.

Texans can verify they are dealing with a legitimate, properly licensed organization by contacting the Texas Department of Banking toll-free at (877) 276-5554 or online at www.banking.state.tx.us.

To report an advance fee scam or to obtain additional information, call the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or visit us online at www.oag.state.tx.us.

General Abbott's signature
Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

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ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.

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