We’ve recently received a few reports from readers who have fallen for advanced fee loan scams. In this scam, a "lender" calls you up offering a loan. They fax over contracts and provide you with 800-numbers, it all seems official. There is just one step to complete before you’ll get your money, you need to wire $300-$2,000 to Canada to secure the loan and buy an insurance policy.
Most people stop at this point and say "Are you crazy?! I’m not sending you scammers any money!" But for borrowers who are in desperate need for a loan, they’ll often just ask how soon the lender needs it. Once the money is sent by Western Union it is gone forever, along with the scammer.
It’s easy to just chock this up to their being "a sucker born every minute" but I think the issue runs deeper. Americans are in bad financial shape these days. The savings rate is below $0. The average household has $9,300 in credit card debt. The average credit score is a pretty paltry 675, just barely high enough to qualify for standard rates.
To sum it up…there is a "Desperation Situation" when it comes to Americans and their money. Borrowers are increasingly willing to take a chance on expensive payday lenders, Nigerian millionaires or strangers who call them with loan offers, just for a chance to get some cash. Are we becoming a nation of debt junkies, willing to put common sense aside for a chance at a loan "hit?" It seems like it if a scammer can just randomly dial phone numbers and find victims willing to send them thousands of dollars.
What can we do? Educating consumers to identify these scams is a good start. But this only treats the symptom, not the sickness. Instead, consumers need to take control of their finances. Start saving money. Stop borrowing to within an inch of your income. Improve your credit scores so that you can get authentic loans when you need to. Use common sense when an offer sounds too good to be true. Like the brilliant SNL skit says: "Don’t buy stuff you cannot afford."
Do you think there is a "Desperation Situation" in the US right now? What can be done to fix this issue? Share your feedback in the comments section below.