The Western Australia government has issued a warning after borrowers and brokers were targeted by online scammers.
According to a statement released today, consumers looking for loans online are again being stung by paying fees or insurance charges upfront to scammers who have stolen the identity of legitimate credit providers.
In the latest case reported to Consumer Protection, a small Sydney-based operator, Finance Money Australia Pty Ltd, had its identity stolen and a WA consumer lost $4,000 after paying upfront taxes and insurance fees for an unsecured loan which he was told had been approved.
The WA Department of Commerce said many other consumers throughout Australia are feared to have lost a total of up to $20,000 after falling victim to the fake website, which has now been closed down.
In June 2015, WA ScamNet issued a warning after a genuine Perth-based broker, Mercury Money, had their identity stolen and two consumers lost a total of $10,000. Three other consumers almost lost money, but contacted the real Mercury Money and discovered they were being scammed before it was too late.
So far this year, nine victims in WA have reported losing almost $20,000 to online loan scams. In 2014, WA ScamNet received reports from 16 victims who had lost more than $36,000.
Acting commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said these scams target people who are in need of money and can least afford to lose it to a scam.
“The heartless nature of this type of scam is particularly disturbing, as it targets susceptible consumers who may have had difficulties getting loans from traditional sources and then preys on their excitement when they believe their loan application has been successful,” Mr Newcombe said.
“Genuine credit providers are also being affected after having their business identity stolen and fake websites and email addresses being set up by replicating their name, but with only slight differences which are not immediately obvious,” he said.
“We warn consumers not to reply to what may be a scam email and not to click on links in these emails or click on online ads which may take them to fake websites.”
Mr Newcombe cautioned consumers who may be tempted to provide their personal details, including their income, on lead generating websites.
“The consumer’s details are passed on to third-party lenders, but there is no guarantee that scammers aren’t getting hold of these details in order to impersonate legitimate credit providers or finance brokers.”
James Mitchell has over eight years’ experience as a financial reporter and is the editor of Wealth and Wellness at Momentum Media.
He has a sound pedigree to cover the business of mortgages and the converging financial services sector having reported for leading finance titles InvestorDaily, InvestorWeekly, Accountants Daily, ifa, Mortgage Business, Residential Property Manager, Real Estate Business, SMSF Adviser, Smart Property Investment, and The Adviser.
He has also been published in The Daily Telegraph and contributed online to FST Media and Mergermarket, part of the Financial Times Group.
James holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and an MA in Journalism.
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