This time of year, many families are short on cash.
So a quick loan for $1,000 or more can be heaven sent, a guarantee that your kids can have a good Christmas. Unless that loan offer is not legit.
Wanted cash for Christmas gifts
Nikea Wilburn, a new mom who wanted a memorable first Christmas with her baby. "Christmas time, we need money, we don't have transportation to do everything," she said.
So her husband Richard, who says he can't work due to a bad back, Googled for online loans. He found a site that promised loans if even you have bad credit.
"Two, three hours later," he said, "I got a phone call from this guy, saying I've been approved for a $5,000 loan."
The caller told him he just had to send a few hundred dollars in fees.
"All I needed was $375 on a Green Dot MoneyPak card. And I'd have $5,000 instantly in my bank account," he said.
Sends money, awaits loan
But Wilburn says after he sent the money through the card, the caller said he needed to another $300, to process the loan..
So he forwarded more money, at which point, he says, the lender stopped taking his calls.
"I lost all the money, $711," a frustrated Wilburn said.
So we called the supposed lender from a different cell phone, but after explaining we were trying to help a customer who gave them $700, the man hung up us, too.
The Wilburn's filed a police report, and Sheriff's investigators tell him they are now trying to trace the lender.
But investigators suspect the Chicago area code in the phone number may be "spoofed," and forwarded outside the country, where law enforcement cannot pursue the case.
How to protect yourself
The Federal Trade Commission warns of several red flags if you are in need of a loan.
--Never wire or send money in advance to get a loan. Green Dot MoneyPak's are the newest way to take your cash, as it's not as obvious as someone asking you to wire cash via Western Union. But it is just as untraceable, if you give them the number of your Green Dot card.
--If the ads says "bad credit ok" .....be suspicious. Legitimate companies will not give you a loan for several thousand dollars if you have bad credit, just based on a call or online application. Real lenders typically require your car title as collateral, so that they can tow you car if you don't pay.
Green Dot offers tips to not losing money to a MoneyPak scheme.
The FTC warns how to spot a bad advance fee loan.
The loss of $700 they couldn't afford to lose cost the Wilburns and their new baby a happy Christmas. "It's pretty low," Nikea said.
Bottom line: If you desperately need cash, try family first, then local lenders with a storefront office.
That way you don't waste your money.
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