Impersonating a legitimate business is called “cloning” and occurs when scammers impersonate a legitimate loan provider or credit broker, authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), pretending to be a representative of this company. They then connect with a wide range of people through cold calls, emails or text messages. The contact list was probably purchased from data vendors. Crooks can also create fake websites so that 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.
Real and FCA authorized loan company Little Loans has been cloned by scammers told Express.co.uk they believe this scam has been circulating over the last year and are working to ensure customers were aware of the scam.
As Graham struggled financially after being laid off, he was forced to file for personal bankruptcy after discovering debts from an ex-partner.
This then caused him to receive a bad credit rating and prevented him from taking out a loan to try to help him get back on his feet and passing money on to his sons to help them as well. He searched and approached several places, but nothing came of it.
He told Express.co.uk: ‘Out of the blue I received this email one day from a company claiming to be ‘small 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 had received this email but found that Little Loans was a genuine lender that I actually recognized.
“I had seen advertisements and such with them and because I was looking for a loan, I didn’t think about it.”
The email said the loan would be repaid in 36 monthly installments at a ‘12.8% fixed rate’, or around £99 per month. The email also attached a loan agreement that they said Graham would have to sign to continue.
Graham decided to go ahead with the claim and provided his bank 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, saying Graham had to pay a £50 administration fee stating the amount would later be ‘refundable’ on his first repayment. This would mean Graham would only pay £49 instead of £99.
The email then claimed Graham would receive his £3,000 within 40-45 minutes of payment.
Graham said: “I just didn’t think anything, read it and sent it. It seemed like a normal request with these companies.
Once again, the impersonator replied within minutes of Graham’s email saying he had sent the money. The company was asking for an additional payment of £100 for an ‘activation fee’.
The email read: “These are 101% reimbursable with the loan money as this fee is going to show your ability and credibility with the company that you can repay the loan money within 36 months. That’s why the accounting team transferred £3,100.
That’s when Graham started seeing the red flags.
He said, “It didn’t feel right to me, that’s when I started smelling a rat. I felt compelled to investigate a bit, first tried calling the number on the email but got no answer, then went to the real Little Loans website .
The legitimate company Little Loans had placed a warning on its website’s homepage about the scam and described the concept of cloning. Graham then knew he had been scammed.
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He decided to email the scammers telling them that he couldn’t pay the money right now, but would complete it on his next payday, so as not to arouse suspicion from the crook. He then reported the email to his bank, reported the scam to Action Fraud, and notified the genuine small loans.
He also noticed that the email had been sent in bulk. Graham wanted to warn others and stop them from sending money. So he emailed the other 30 contacts reporting the scam.
He said: “At first glance the emails looked professional and they also came with a professional looking contract. When I looked at the emails further, I could see that they were full of spelling mistakes.
“At the time, I was stressed about the money and it definitely clouded my judgement. Unfortunately, I was stupid and didn’t realize it beforehand, so it still pissed me off. cost and of course I’m a little embarrassed about it now.
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Graham was unable to recover the money he lost, but he said he was, in some ways, lucky.
He said: “Luckily I only lost the amount I made because I feel like they would have asked for more and you never know I could have lost hundreds of pounds.
“I can imagine with the way life is like now that others could lose thousands if they fall into the trap like me.”
The real company Little Loans told Express.co.uk that they have seen a 900% increase in people finding out about a scam. In many cases, victims have lost hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
In the last month alone, the company has received over 200 queries from people who have been victims of this scam. Little Loans added that this figure was only from those who contacted them and that he believed there were “many more victims” out there.
Alex Kosuth-Phillips, Customer Service 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 the scammers sensed an opportunity to step up their efforts at a time when far more people may be feeling the pinch and need quick access to credit.”
In order to try to avoid these types of scams, Little Loans urges people to be vigilant if contacted in this manner and the “key” to remember is that any legitimate loan company will “never ask the customer to pay money”. advance to release the loan funds.
Mr Phillips said: ‘You should never pay an upfront fee for a loan or send money in return for a loan.
“If you are unsure about 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 credit register. financial services at register.fca.org.uk.