A Colorado Springs man thought he had done his homework. But he got burned, losing a thousand dollars to crooks.
He tried getting a Christmas loan from his bank. When he was denied, he went online, and also was turned down.
But later he got a phone call, telling him he was approved for a loan. Only he didn't know the person on the other end wasn't with a financial institution at all.
Joey Lara says, "The lady identified herself as Terry Ebbs with Spectrum Financial. And she said I had applied online in mid-October and I said yeah, I remember that. She said we got you approved for $10,000."
Joey says he immediately checked out the company, Spectrum Financial out of Nicholasville, Kentucky, and learned it was a legitimate business with a good track record. So he felt comfortable filling out an application and providing his personal information.
Since he didn't have anything to offer as collateral, Joey was told to wire $1,000 to Manitoba, Canada and an insurance company there would co-sign the loan.
After wiring the money, he was asked to send even more cash. That's when he got suspicious and called the Kentucky company, discovering he'd been scammed.
Joey says, "I was discouraged. The day that this happened I broke down the whole day. I didn't know how to explain it to my wife and my kids."
Joey called me and I told him to report the incident to Phone Busters, the anti-fraud call center operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Joey learned he was one of more than 10,000 victims in 2006. The total loss to U.S. citizens was close to 46 million dollars.
Altogether, a half dozen people were reportedly scammed out of a thousand dollars each, because they visited a loan website which has now been shut down.
Its operators were simply using Spectrum Financial's name and address, and weren't connected to it at all.
The bottom line: thoroughly check out a financial institution before giving any information. And never wire money. Legitimate loan offers don't require upfront payments. Fees are generally taken from the amount borrowed.
Follow those tips and you won't get burned.
Detectives at phone busters also say, Crooks are becoming more active in Europe and Asia, especially with lottery scams.
They'll claim you've won a prize, then try to get you to pay a fee to collect your winnings.