ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The latest scam to hit the St. Louis area targets homeowners who are desperate to land a loan.
Michelle Corey, president & CEO of the St. Louis Better Business Bureau, says in just the past few weeks thieves using fabricated local addresses have stolen tens of thousands of dollars from more than 40 unsuspecting borrowers, many of them at the end of their ropes as they look for money to pay bills, buy medicine or forestall home foreclosures.
“The people who do this are the worst kind of vultures,” Corey said. “These people are constantly on the lookout for families who are struggling financially. Once they find their victims, they will do whatever they can to strip them of what little they have.”
Corey counts at least four-dozen cases reported locally in just the past month or so.
In nearly every case, the consumer reported that he or she had applied online for a loan, then were contacted by phone or email by a person representing one of the phony St. Louis area loan companies.
Usually the scammers demand that consumers take out insurance coverage on the loans by loading cash onto Green Dot MoneyPak cards and forwarding the access codes to them.
Thieves demand anywhere between $600 and $3,000 to secure a loan, but after receiving the first payment they start pumping the victim for additional payments until the applicant runs out of money or catches on to the scam.
A family from Tennessee is being evicted from their rental home after losing some $2,800 to a scammer claiming to be headquartered in St. Louis
A disabled widow from Oklahoma lost more than $1,000 to another phony St. Louis loan company.
“They are evil, evil!” she’s quoted as saying after learning that she’d been duped.
The Better Business Bureau offers tips on how to avoid being scammed when looking for an online loan at its website: www.bbb.org.