4 Online Loan Scams to Watch Out For: Advance Fee, No Credit Check, and MoreNovember 18, 2021
When you need cash fast, it can be tempting to look past red flags and warning signs and take a loan from just about any lender you can find. But not all lenders are equal, and some are actually dangerous. Let’s take a look at some common loan scams and loans to avoid, and talk about how to identify reputable lenders. Your (financial) life could depend on it.
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In today’s society, financial debt is an unavoidable way of life. Loans help the average Canadian maintain a good credit score, pay for school, finance a vehicle, and purchase a home. They’re also helping more and more Canadians stay afloat during rocky economic times. But that doesn’t mean loans aren’t without risks, and the biggest risk of all is who you choose to borrow from.
How extreme is the risk? Just take a peek at the numbers: Each year, Canadians lose an average of $100M dollars to scammers, but because only about 5% of victims come forward to report the crime, the Better Business Bureau estimates the real number is likely in the billions.
Bottom line: Scams are big business in Canada, and loan fraud represents a significant piece of that billion-dollar pie.
Common types of loan scams
When you’re desperate, loan fraud can be a hard thing to protect yourself against. A good rule of thumb is to be wary of the most common types of loan scams that victimize tens of thousands of Canadians each year.
1. Personal loan scams
Personal loans are extremely popular (a recent study from Finder estimates that 65% of Canadians have taken out a personal loan at some point) and for good reason—they’re an effective way to help finance everything from a new car to a wedding, or even to consolidate and better manage your debt.
They’re also one of the most common sources of loan fraud around. Luckily, there are some simple signs that will help you determine if the lender is legitimate or a scam operator. If you see any of these warning signs from your personal loan lender, you could be dealing with a scammer:
- They don’t require a credit check
- They offer guaranteed approval
- They aren’t registered in your province or territory
- You can’t find a physical address or contact information
(Please Note: Credit builder products are an exception. Since the lender is not taking on any risk, this type of loan is normally guaranteed and does not require a credit check.)
2. Payday loan scams
When you’re in a pinch, a payday loan can be pretty enticing. And while they’re not all scams, you can file them all under the “loans to avoid” column. Even when they’re legitimate, these types of loans have such high interest they’re notorious for trapping users in a cycle of debt that’s extremely difficult to escape.
Payday loan scams come in a few varieties. Most commonly, the lender will ask for an upfront fee before approving your loan, then disappear after you’ve sent your money. This is against the law in Canada, and legitimate lenders will never ask for an upfront fee. However, other lenders will charge you fees after you’ve received your loan funds—this is legitimate, but make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Even legitimate payday lenders will try to sneak extra fees into the agreement you sign by hiding it in the fine print.
3. Student loan scams
Student debt is a serious problem in Canada. Collectively, Canadians owe more than $28 billion in student loans, and it takes borrowers an average of 15 years to fully pay off debt from their days as a student. This can have a serious impact on someone’s ability to get a mortgage or start a family.
So it’s no surprise that more and more scammers are preying on this situation. If you fall victim to one of these student loan scams, you can land in serious financial hardship. Typically, you’ll receive a phone call from a lender offering to lower or even eliminate your remaining student debt… for a one-time fee.
At best, you’ll lose your one-time fee and never hear from the scammer again. But sometimes these scammers will also change your personal information with the National Student Loans Service Centre, so you don’t receive past-due notices and warnings. Eventually, the debt falls into default and is sent to collections, an outcome that can have devastating consequences for your credit score.
4. Advance fee loan scams
In general, beware of any lender asking for an upfront fee or advance fee. In Canada, lenders aren’t allowed to ask for an upfront fee before giving a loan. It’s against the law. Scammers who specialize in this type of fraud disappear the moment you’ve digitally transferred them your advance fee, and you’ll never receive your loan.
How to identify and report loan scams
If you’re in the market for a loan, it’s important to be vigilant and keep your guard up against potential lenders before you agree to anything. If you see any red flags while you’re comparison shopping, follow your instincts and steer clear.
How to spot a fake loan company
While the specific details of a loan scam vary from scam to scam, predatory lenders all share some of the same traits that should be major warning signs to borrowers.
We might sound like a broken record, but the biggest red flag of them all is if a lender asks for an upfront fee. As we’ve already seen, this is illegal in Canada, so this is a cut and dry sign you’re dealing with a predatory lender.
Other signs to look for in a fake loan company
- The lender is pressuring you to act fast and sign before it’s “too late”.
- The lender doesn’t request to see your credit score or how much money you make.
- The loan offer doesn’t contain complete information, such as the total cost with interest.
- You can’t find a physical address for the lender.
- They don’t have any reviews on Google or other independent review websites.
How to report loan scams
If you’ve fallen victim to a loan scam, or think you’ve identified a predatory lender, it’s your responsibility to report it and help protect others from becoming victims.
- You can report a loan scam to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by phone or online.
- You can also report the scam to the Better Business Bureau through their online Scam Tracker.
How to protect yourself from loan scams
Of course, everything we’ve talked about in this article will only help protect you from the majority of scams. Unfortunately, scammers are being more and more sophisticated every day, and are finding new ways to appear more legitimate. In other words, you may not see any obvious warning signs and still fall victim to a loan scam.
To better protect yourself, here are a few handy tips to follow when you’re assessing whether to accept or decline a loan offer.
Tip 1: Do your research.
Google is your friend. Check to see if the lender is registered in your province or territory. If you get a call from a loan company, verify their identity on Google and call the number listed to validate who is actually calling you before sending over information.
Tip 2: Just because it looks official, doesn’t mean it is.
Professional-looking websites are easier than ever to make, with little to no coding skills required. And documents are easy to copy or fake entirely, including contracts. Don’t be fooled into thinking something is legitimate just because it looks official.
Tip 3: Read the contract.
The loan offer contract you receive from the lender might be dense and difficult to read, but take the time to comb through it. Make sure you understand all of the agreements and try to ascertain if any key information is missing or inaccurate. Remember, scammers may be using documents they’ve copied from another company.
Get a loan from a lender you can trust
While it is wise to be alert when looking for a lender on the internet, the rise of financial technology means that more Canadians are turning to reputable online companies to manage their finances and get approved for fairly priced loan products. Spring Financial is one such company that offers safe and convenient financing in a few clicks.
- Personal loans made easy: Even if you have bad credit, you can get approved for loans up to $35,000 from the comfort of your home.
- Same-day funding: Apply online in minutes and get funds sent directly to your bank account as soon as today.
- Customizable payment schedules: Our payment plans are flexible with terms between 9 and 60 months.
- Trusted by Canadians: Check out our reviews on Trustpilot and Feefo.
- No hidden costs: With Spring you never have to worry about hidden costs like application fees or maintenance charges, ever.