‘Didn’t feel right!’ Man, 68, issues warning following email scam from ‘out of the blue’

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Cost of living scams: Expert reveals what to look out for

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The act of pretending to be a legitimate company is called “cloning” and is when scammers imitate a legitimate, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) authorised and regulated loan provider or credit broker, pretending to be a representative from that company. They then get in touch with a large pool of people through cold calling, emailing or SMS messages. The list of contacts is likely to have been purchased from data sellers. The scammers may also create fake websites so they can provide links to their targets. Graham, 68, from Kent, fell for one of these loan scams after scammers posed as a legitimate lender.

The real and FCA authorised loans company Little Loans was cloned by scammers told Express.co.uk that it believed that this scam had circulated over the last year and it was trying hard to make sure customers are aware of the scam.

At the time Graham was struggling financially after having been made redundant, he was forced to declare himself personally bankrupt after discovering debts from an ex-partner.

This then caused him to receive a bad credit rating and meant he was unable to take out a loan to try and help him get back onto his feet and pass over some money to his sons to help them out too. He researched and approached several places however nothing came to fruition.

He told Express.co.uk: “Out of the blue, I got this email one day from a company claiming to be ‘Little Loans’ saying that my personal loan application for a £3,000 loan had been accepted.

“I was confused, I couldn’t remember if I had done this so I googled the company to figure out why I got this email but I found that Little Loans was an actual lender that I did actually recognise.

“I’d seen advertisements and such with them and because I was looking for a loan, I didn’t think anything of it.”

The email stated that the loan would be paid off in 36 monthly payments at a “fixed rate of 12.8 percent” which would be around £99 each month. The email also attached a loan agreement which they said Graham would have to sign to proceed.

Graham decided to go ahead with the claim and provided his bank account details on the loan agreement. Graham sent his agreement and details one afternoon.

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Within five minutes, the Little Loans impersonator responded stating that Graham needed to pay an admin fee of £50 stating that the amount would later be “refundable” in his first repayment. This would mean that Graham would only pay £49 instead of £99.

The email then claimed that Graham would receive his £3,000 within 40-45 minutes of the payment.

Graham said: “I just didn’t think anything, I read it and I sent it. It just felt like a normal request with these companies.”

Once again, the impersonator responded within minutes of Graham’s email which said he had sent the money. The company was asking for further payment of £100 for an “activation fee”.

The email said: “This is a refundable fee 101 percent along with loan money because this fee is going to show your ability and credibility toward the company that you can pay back loan money within 36 months. That’s why the accounting team has transferred £3100.”

This was when Graham started to see the red flags.

He said: “This didn’t feel right, this was when I started to smell a rat. I felt like a needed to investigate a little, I tried calling the number on the email first but I got no answer, I then went to the real Little Loans website.”

The legitimate Little Loans company had placed a warning on the homepage of its website about the scam and described what the concept of cloning was. Graham then knew then that he had been scammed.

He decided to email the scammers to tell them that he couldn’t pay the money just yet but would complete it on his next payday, so as to not cause suspicion on the scammer’s end. He then reported the email to his bank, reported the scam to Action Fraud, and notified the genuine Little Loans.

He also noticed that the email had been sent on mass. Graham wanted to warn the others and stop them from sending money so sent an email to the 30 other contacts flagging the scam.

He said: “At first glance, the emails looked professional and they had a professional-looking contract attached too. When I looked at the emails further I could see that they were full of spelling mistakes.

“At the time, I was stressed about money and it definitely clouded my judgement. Unfortunately, I was dumb and didn’t realise beforehand so it still cost me and of course I’m a little embarrassed about it now.”

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Graham was unable to recover the money that he lost but he said that he was, in some ways, fortunate.

He said: “Thankfully, I only lost the amount I did because I have a feeling they would’ve asked for more and you never know I could’ve possibly lost hundreds of pounds.

“I can imagine with the way life is like now others could lose thousands if they fall for it as I did.”

The genuine Little Loans company told Express.co.uk that they had seen a 900 percent increase in people inquiring about being scammed. In many instances, victims have lost hundreds and even thousands of pounds.

In the last month alone, the company had received over 200 queries from those who was a victim of this scam. Little Loans added that this figure is also only from those who had contacted them and that it believes that there a “many more victims” out there.

Alex Kosuth-Phillips, customer services manager at Little-Loans.com said: “The increase in scam reports seems to coincide with the emergence of the cost of living crisis.

“We suspect that the scammers have sensed an opportunity to scale up their efforts at a time when a far greater number of people may be feeling the pinch and needing quick access to credit.”

In order to try and avoid these types of scams, Little Loans urges people to be vigilant if they are contacted in this way and that the “key thing” to remember is that any legitimate loan company would “never ask the customer to pay any money upfront to release the loan funds.”

Mr Phillips said: “You should never pay upfront fees for a loan or send money in return for a loan.

“If you are unsure about any communications received from a lender or credit broker, the best thing to do is to get in touch through their official website. You can check their credentials on the financial services register at register.fca.org.uk.”

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