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Garda Warning on Advance Fee Fraud related to Websites Offering Unsecured Loans 2/12/21

Issue Date: 02/12/2021

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau is alerting the public to an ongoing Advance Fee Fraud related to websites offering unsecured loans to financially vulnerable people as we enter the Christmas period.

A number of websites offering un-secured loans are targeting financially vulnerable persons who have difficulty accessing loans from established financial institutions in a fraud known as Advance Fee Fraud.

In these cases, what occurs is the victim identifies a website offering loans which will be processed quickly and without security.

The entity will often state that it is regulated by the Central Bank Of Ireland (the website or company behind it will usually not be regulated). They will provide an Irish address (usually false).

The loan applicant will then complete an online application and will receive a call or communication within a very short time (often minutes) informing them that their loan application has been approved, and will advise of the amount of the loan and the monthly repayment. Sometimes they will offer more than what was sought.

The victim will then be asked to send a small amount of money to the lender in advance of the loan amount being issued, with different reasons given for this advance fee, such as a set-up fee, paying for Personal Protection Insurance on the loan amount or the first instalment of the loan to show that the victim has the ability to meet the loan repayments.

The injured party will transfer the requested amount to obtain the loan in good faith but no loan is ever issued and the advance fee is lost.

In one such reported incident of Advance Fee Fraud, a person living in the Dublin area contacted a company looking for a loan. They were asked to forward a deposit of €680 to guarantee the loan and when they transferred the money, they did not receive the money and had no way of making contact with the company.

The warning signs of these websites include the lender asking for a payment of some kind in advance, the website offering a fast and easy way to obtain a loan online and then the loan being approved very quickly.

The loan applicant may also be pressurized into making the advance payment immediately, often on the basis that the loan offer will be withdrawn if the fee is not paid.

These entities offering the loan will have a fake address, fake or otherwise incorrect post code for the address on the website and the advertised phone number will not be functioning.

No evidence is sought of the person's ability to repay the loan and no guarantor or security will be sought.

Other warning signs include a lack of in-person meetings, the lender will not be regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and the loan applicant may receive requests to pay a fee in advance by crypto-currency.

Gardaí are advising members of the public to:

• NEVER pay money in advance to the lender before the loan amount is drawn down
• NEVER apply for a loan to an entity that is not regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland
• ALWAYS check the official Central Bank of Ireland website to see if the company referred to in the website is regulated to provide financial services in Ireland: http://registers.centralbank.ie/
• ALWAYS research the entity offering the loan, their address, their post code and the phone number to check legitimacy
• USE legitimate financial service providers and avail of the services provided by MABS.