CCLSWA wishes to warn WA consumers about recent online loan scams. Consumers should always make sure that they are borrowing money from a licensed credit provider; however, recently, scammers have been stealing the identities of legitimate businesses in order to solicit clients. One such scam has seen a number of Western Australians lose thousands of dollars after believing that they were taking out a loan with Mercury Money. Scammers asked borrowers to pay money into bank accounts for establishment fees or loan insurance, before the borrowed amount could be transferred. If this was a legitimate loan, these fees would be included in the amount borrowed.
Alex Palmer, finance broker with the real Mercury Money, is currently assisting WA Police Major Fraud Squad in their investigation of the scam. He has also helped prevent more people from falling victim to the scam by posting a warning on Mercury Money’s website.
It is important to realise that the Mercury Money swindle is not unique. WA ScamNet reports that over the past 12 months, 17 people have lost more than $40,000 in total by falling victim to similar scams. Targets of such scams are usually people who have been rejected by traditional lenders and are therefore looking for what seems to be an easy alternative. While there are alternatives out there, it is important to make sure that the credit provider you are dealing with is legitimate. CCLSWA recommends thoroughly researching the business yourself, rather than relying purely on the information given to you over the telephone or via email. You can do this by:
- Making sure that the business is licensed by searching for it on ASIC’s Registers (https://connectonline.asic.gov.au/RegistrySearch/faces/landing/ProfessionalRegisters.jspx); however, remember that some scammers copy this information and falsely represent that they are a legitimate business.
- Making sure that the website is the official site for the business that you are dealing with. For example, a padlock symbol in the address bar indicates that the website is secure.
- Making sure that the business can be reached using publicly available contact information – not just the telephone number or email address that they use to contact you. Try searching for their details using an online search engine or telephone directory.
If you suspect that an online loan offer is a scam, please contact CCLSWA on (08) 9221 7066.