CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A loan company's promises to help relieve financial strain has turned into a complete nightmare for thousands of people across the country.
“It said it’s FDIC insured, better business bureau accredited, and the loan terms were really good with low rates and low payments," said Justin Drew, a Florida resident that spoke to Fox Four on the phone.
Drew said he was looking for help on some bills when he turned to Ecapitalloans to get out of a jam.
He says the loan company's website caught his attention, so he filled out an application online, and it wasn't long before he received confirmation that his loan was approved.
Drew gave Fox 4 a copy of his 8-page loan agreement that he says was a bunch of phony documents.
The papers contain information about safety, security, and data protection, but also asked for several personal details.
“Drivers license, social security number, bank information," stated Drew.
Ecapitalloans even asked him for passwords and answers to security questions, which he admits, seemed a bit odd.
Drew provided some of the information anyway because he thought the company was legit.
However, it wasn't long before his suspicions about the loan was confirmed when he heard from his bank.
“Oh okay, I’ve got 348 dollars extra. I’m going to use it on grocery shopping and everything. Literally, almost two weeks later from my bank is when I get a copy of the check sent to me saying that it’s fraudulent," said Drew.
He says Ecapitalloans, which claimed to be Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insured, deposited a fake check in his account.
They were able to do this with the password they requested from Drew by logging onto his mobile banking app and forging his signature on the back of a fake check.
After doing more research on the company online, Drew says he found similar complaints for the scam reported on the Better Business Bureau website.
"This is just one of many. Scammers are like a game of whack-a-mole. They'll create a website, shut it down, then create another one," said Brain Oglesby with the BBB in West Florida.
Oglesby says it's the latest advance-fee loan scam.
The guaranteed loan charges upfront fees then tricks applicants out of sensitive information and money.
He says in 2019, it was one of the top five riskiest scams with a median loss of around 800 dollars.
It's the same year, the Federal Trade Commission reports, unsuspecting consumers lost a total of $1.9 billion to acts of fraud. Many of the victims were lured in with promises of debt consolidation and generous personal loans.
"In this case, the company went as far as using the BBB logo, putting it on their website, and claiming to be a part of the better business bureau," stated Oglesby.
He says falling for these scams in this day and age are easy.
Scammers stamp their advertising with fake logos that lead people to believe they are the real deal.
He says that means consumers have to work harder to protect themselves.
For cases like Ecapitalloans, people should look out for loans guaranteed in advance, unusual payment methods, and up-front payments for any kind of processing.
Most importantly, Oglesby says they should know who they're doing business with.
"Check the company out, research the details, see what other customers are saying, and see if we're identifying them as a true accredited business. Also, search that address on Google maps and see where that address goes," said Oglesby.
Fox 4 decided to check out the business, but a quick search online shows that the company's Dallas, Texas address doesn't exist.
Ecapitalloans, just like Drew's money, has disappeared.
"The best defense against scams is knowing about them, know the tell-tale signs and warnings, and being an educated consumer so you don't fall victim to the next scam," stated Oglesby.
If you believe you've been scammed, he says you should immediately file reports to local law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau.
To check for scams reported in your area or companies that have been identified as a scam, click here for the BBB Scam Tracker.
If you believe your sensitive information has been compromised in a scam, click here to visit IdentityTheft.gov.
ECAPITALLOANS ON BBB:
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION FOR SCAMS:
BBB SCAM TRACKER: https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker
IDENTITY THEFT: https://identitytheft.gov/