BALTIMORE — A number of people are struggling financially due to the pandemic, and when they sought help through emergency loans, many handed over what money they had and received nothing in return.
For Jessica Murphy, this year has been hard for many reasons.
“I had cervical cancer and I had to have surgery, and for months I wasn’t making any money,” said Murphy.
She fell behind on her bills. Her credit score dropped. So, she took the advice of her friends and sought out a loan company.
“Filled out a form online, just basic information like my name and email and phone number and they called me,” said Murphy.
A guy named Mike with Instant Emergency Loan said she’d been approved, but first she needed to send money for insurance.
“And I tried to explain to this man like, I have no money. All the money that I have is what I’m sending you so I can get a bigger loan to pay my bills because I’m about to have surgery. I’m a single mother of two,” Murphy said.
Mike assured her that as soon as he got the money, she’d receive a $3,000 emergency loan.
“He asked me yet again for a third payment and that’s when I was like absolutely not. I was like not only did I already send you all the money that I have to my name, but I know that this is a scam,” said Murphy.
In all, she lost $700.
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick of these,” said Angie Barnett with the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland. Barnett added that it is illegal for any company to promise a loan and require payment before delivering.
“They do it under the name of COVID. They tell you you are now eligible and all you need to do is send money for processing fees, money for attorneys and people are actually sending their last few dollars to these scams,” Barnett said.
These scams are also strategically designed to bait people who need money the most.
“You’re in your web browser and you put in the word 'loan.' You are looking for help that’s where they’re catching us,” said Barnett.
Murphy finally received her unemployment benefits, and she’s paying down her debt, but she wants to warn anyone else in a similar situation.
“I know just how desperate I was feeling at the time and this man, he just seemed so sweet and genuine,” said Murphy. “But I mean, these scammers that’s their life, that’s what they do. They come off as real, kind people who are real companies and they’re just not.”
Not only are they taking money, they’re also stealing personal information that legitimate lenders might ask such as bank account information or social security number.
Before choosing any lender, make sure they’re registered in the state, have a good reputation, and thoroughly research their website.
Click here for more information on advance-fee loan scams.