by Cristina Miranda – Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
Strapped for cash? You might think an online payday loan is a quick and easy way to help stretch your money. But before you enter your bank account or any other personal information on a payday loan website, back away from the keyboard! That online payday loan might be a window to a scam.
A federal court has granted the FTC an order for contempt in the matter of Suntasia Marketing, Inc., a company previously involved in a telemarketing scheme that bilked consumers out of millions of dollars. This time around, the scammers took advantage of people looking for online payday loans by tricking them into completing an online application. The catch? The website and application were a pretense – an attempt to get people’s bank account information. Once the company had their account numbers, they enrolled unaware consumers in an ongoing membership program for an online mall. But because the terms of the program were obscure and buried deep in the website, there was no way for the consumers to know. And the company took their silence and failure to cancel as acceptance and permission to regularly debit money from their accounts on a regular basis.
So how can you avoid a scam like this one? It can be tough. But knowing how some scam operators work can make you think twice about the sites you visit and what you do when you get there.
- Keep a close hold on your personal information. Whether your visit to an online payday loan site results in a loan, simply entering information on the site may come back to haunt you. Even if you never hit “Submit” to complete the transaction, your information can be captured through keystroke logging – a program used to see and store everything you enter on application. Scammers can use this information to commit identity theft, or debit money from your accounts.
- Read the fine print. If the details of any online transaction, application or membership program aren’t apparent and understandable, don’t follow through. Incomprehensible or hard to find details could be warning signs of a scam.
- Review your bank account and billing statements for unauthorized charges. Regularly reading all your account statements can help you see where your money is going, and help you flag unauthorized billing charges. If you suspect an unauthorized charge, ask your bank or the merchant about it, and dispute it.
If you suspect a scam, file a complaint with the FTC. For more information, check out our Payday Loans and Online Payday Loans article.
The complete article can be read or printed online.