Schemers posing as legitimate money lenders

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — For many families, an extra few thousand dollars can mean the difference between paying rent or losing their home, but there are schemers out there who prey on that desperation.

Melissa and Eric Coppinger cannot stop the phone calls. After falling victim to a loan scheme, more schemers are calling the Cumberland couple – up to 50 times a day, and they’re relentless.

Desperate to get cash fast right before Christmas, Melissa searched for personal loans online. She said hundreds of different sites came up, so she clicked on one called Advance America, or so she thought.

She even got an email from someone claiming to be from the company, and was approved for a $5,000 loan within minutes. Melissa was instructed to put $300 on a Greet Dot MoneyPak card, then read the card number back to the company representative.

The company took down the number, and with it Melissa’s money, then blocked her phone number.

Call 12 for Action contacted Advance America, and a spokesperson said their company, along with many other legitimate lenders, are targets by unknown schemers who use their names to trick customers. In a statement, the company said: “We want to inform you that these actions are not being made by Advance America or anyone affiliated with the company.”

To recognize fraudulent loan offers by phone, be suspicious if the person claims you need to purchase a prepaid debit card as a “good faith” deposit, or if you’re asked to send money up front via wire transfer. A legitimate lender will not conduct business that way.

For Melissa, losing $300 was devastating.

“I think I was overzealous and I knew something wasn’t right, but in my head I knew it was,” she recalled. “We needed that money, and if that was the way I was going to get it, then I had to try.”

Before dealing with any lender, make sure they’re licensed to conduct business in Rhode Island. You can do this by contacting the Department of Business Regulation.

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