Every now and then, we find ourselves in need of extra cash not only just to help us get by but to also help us finally purchase those big-ticket items that we need, like a car or a house, for instance. So, in order to make that possible, people use loans. However, a lot of people fall prey to all sorts of scams unless they work with reputable advisors or get help from intelligent mortgage services. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), people have lost close to $3.3 billion to fraud. The most common type of loan scam is the personal loan. Medical bills payments, debt consolidations, and other services offer attractive personal loan options and can lure in unsuspecting people looking for quick solutions to their financial woes. Thankfully, there are steps and signs we can use as a checklist to help be on the lookout for scams. Here are those: Scammers are mostly online – scammers are mostly online with no storefront or physical address. They often seek out people with the promise of “free money”. There’s really no easy way to chase down someone who won’t list a physical location – choose lenders that have an actual office. The lenders don’t care about your payment history – legitimate and reputable lenders will make it a point to check your credit. They will do this by working or getting in touch with institutions like Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. They do this in order to see if you have a history of paying your bills on time and if you pay them in full or not to make sure that you are intent on repaying a loan. Scammers on the other hand don’t care about this at all and tend to seek out high-risk borrowers who are likely to fall behind in payments so they can collect and make money from extravagantly high fees and late payment penalties. If they ask for an “advance fee”, it’s most likely a scam – an advance-fee loan scam happens when the lender tells you that you need to pay a fee upfront before they can give you a loan, credit card, or access to credit. If you pay, the “lender” and the money promised will disappear -leaving you with even less money to begin with. Do note that some legitimate lenders can require an appraisal or application fee before they consider your loan application but they will not tell you that paying a fee guarantees a loan. Legitimate lenders will also disclose the fee and provide you in detail what the fees are specifically for. Scammers will call, write to you, and even actually knock on your door – legitimate lenders will advertise as expected such as by having an ad in the paper, online, or by social media. If you get any loan offered by call, mail, or through door-to-door solicitation, flag it immediately as these activities are illegal as per the FTC. In case you get a robocall (a call with a recorded message), hang up immediately. Do not press any number to attempt to speak to a person as this will lead to them calling you more. All that pressure – a scammer will pressure you to act immediately by telling you that the offer will expire quickly. High-pressure tactics can lead you to make rash decisions that you’ll likely regret later on. Deadlines are also imposed by legitimate lenders but they would give you weeks to decide whether to take on the loan offer. If the lender rushes you, back away and report it to authorities. Unsecure website – when visiting a lender’s website (or any other site for that matter), look for these two things – a padlock symbol on any page or pages that ask you to provide personal information and the URL (this is the web address) that starts with “https” instead of just “http”. The extra “s” signifies that the site is secure. Wire transfers – if a lender will ask you to wire money for fees, that’s a red flag. Never wire money to a person you don’t know. Always ask for a physical address. Contact the right authorities such as the Financial Regulations office in that area to verify if the business or lender is indeed legitimate. Approval is guaranteed – trusted lenders will use your credit score, income, and even employment information to determine loan approvals on a case-to-case basis. If the lender guarantees or even merely advertises that a loan will be approved with no questions asked – it’s a red flag. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s a good sign that it’s a scam. Sounds too familiar – scammers would use copycat names or take on names that are very close to those of a legitimate business. Take a very hard look at the name and URL to detect subtle clues like a misspelling, a string of numbers, percentage signs, and even @ symbols. You can always check in with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to verify if a business is indeed legitimate. Think before you click – scammers have also become internet savvy and will make use of legitimate business or official-sounding names to get in touch with you. When in doubt, do not open that email. In case that you did, look for subtle clues such as misspellings, etc., and ever click on any links or open any attachments. These can be a virus or malware that can be used to steal your personal information.