St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 9, 2012 – Hundreds of consumers across the nation say they have been victimized by an online payday loan scheme involving at least seven businesses, all claiming the same Las Vegas address, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
In every case, the complainants told the BBB that the businesses used electronic checks to take $30 from their accounts. Some consumers said the companies told them the charges were payday loan application fees, even though the consumers maintain they never formally applied for loans. Other consumers said they have no idea where the businesses got their banking information or how they were able to access their accounts.
More than 370 people, including several from the St. Louis area, have filed complaints against the businesses, most of them in the past several months.
“These people need to be stopped,” said a Denver, Colo. consumer. “I don’t know what’s going on,” said a man from Alton, Ill. “Please help!!!” pleaded a woman from Milton, Del.
The businesses identified by the BBB are Capital Advance Capitol (also known as Loan Assistance), Vantage Funding, Palm Loan Advances, Ideal Advance, Loan Tree Advances, Your Loan Funding and Pacific Advances. All list addresses at 2780 S. Jones Blvd., Suite 3675, in Las Vegas, and most have virtually identical websites. All the companies have “F” ratings with the BBB, the lowest possible, except for Your Loan Funding, which is not rated.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said consumers should avoid giving out personal banking information to anyone they do not know.
“In many cases, these victims are people who already are in desperate need of financial help,” Corey said. “For a business to swoop in and yank $30 from their accounts for no good reason is despicable.”
Several of the complainants said they have been promised refunds repeatedly, but never received them. Some said they were promised $100 gasoline vouchers in lieu of a refund, but never received those either.
The BBB has found six nearly identical websites for the companies, with only the names of the businesses changed. “Get up to $1,000 in as fast as 1 hour!” say the sites. “4 out of every five applicants is approved on the spot! Get approved for a loan regardless of your credit score or credit history!” All of the sites have identical testimonials, again with only the company’s names changed.
The consumer from Alton, Ill., who receives medical disability benefits, said he had been researching a payday loan on the Internet and was asked to type in bank routing information in the event he applied for a loan. Immediately after entering the information, it appeared that his computer switched to a different website and a message on that site asked whether he wanted to join an online savings club. He said he clicked “no,” and ended his efforts at applying for a loan. He said it was soon after that his bank notified him of a withdrawal by Vantage Funding. “I have talked to them 10 times and I have talked to 10 different people,” he said. “I’ll never do anything like this on my computer again,” he said.
A woman from House Springs, Mo., said she, too, had been searching for an online payday loan, but decided not to go through with it after entering her bank account information. She said Loan Tree Advances took $30 from her account, which resulted in overdraft penalties. When she contacted the company about a refund, she was told the payment was an application fee for a loan. She said her family already was suffering financially and “this just put us in a worse position. I can’t believe it.”
The BBB offers the following tips to avoid losing money in an online payday loan scheme:
- Be extremely cautious about providing banking or other personal information to strangers.
- Read and understand all terms and conditions printed on the website.
- Check for BBB Business Reviews by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, email@example.com, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, email@example.com