Loan call scams have proliferated in recent years, exploiting the vulnerability of individuals seeking financial assistance. Scammers employ sophisticated techniques to deceive victims and extort money under the guise of offering loans. This blog aims to shed light on the nature of loan call scams, their consequences, and proactive measures to avoid falling victim to such schemes.
Impact of Loan Call Scams
- Financial Losses: Victims of loan call scams often suffer significant financial losses as scammers demand upfront fees, deposit requirements, or collect personal financial information.
- Identity Theft: Scammers may use the information victims provide to engage in identity theft, leading to long-term financial and personal consequences.
Methods Employed by Scammers
Scammers often use a variety of tactics and strategies to lure victims into their traps. These are often deployed in combination with the background of the victim and the database the bad actors have access to. Mentioned below are some tactics deployed by scammers-
- Impersonation: Scammers often pose as legitimate loan providers, using false identities and professional-sounding company names to gain the trust of their victims.
- Pressure Tactics: Scammers utilise tactics, such as imposing strict deadlines or creating a sense of urgency, to pressure victims into making quick decisions without proper consideration.
- Social Engineering: Bad Actors often use social engineering skills to scope the vulnerabilities among the victims and deploy make-believe strategies to get the victims’ attention.
- Fake Documentation: To appear legitimate, scammers may provide victims with counterfeit loan agreements, forged bank statements, or fraudulent licenses. These documents are designed to deceive victims into believing the loan offer is genuine.
Loan call scams can target a wide range of individuals, but certain groups are more susceptible to falling prey to such traps-
- Individuals with Poor Credit: Scammers exploit the desperation of individuals with poor credit histories who are often denied loans by traditional financial institutions. These individuals may be more willing to entertain alternative lending options, making them vulnerable to scams.
- Senior Citizens: Older adults, who may be more trusting or unfamiliar with newer technology, are frequently targeted by scammers preying on their financial vulnerabilities. They may be less likely to question the legitimacy of loan offers and more susceptible to emotional manipulation.
- Immigrants and Non-Native Speakers: Scammers often target immigrants or individuals with limited English proficiency, taking advantage of language barriers and their unfamiliarity with local financial systems. These individuals may have limited access to traditional banking and lending options, making them easy targets for scammers.
Moving into cyberspace, it is essential to understand and create best practices to prevent such crimes. As netizens, it is our paramount responsibility to impart more awareness among the younger and vulnerable generations. The netizens can undertake the following preventive measures to secure themselves-
- Verify the Legitimacy: Thoroughly research loan providers, checking for proper licensing and accreditation before engaging in any financial transactions. Validate the company’s legitimacy by contacting relevant regulatory authorities or consumer protection agencies.
- Never Share Personal Information: Avoid disclosing sensitive personal and financial information to unknown or unverified callers. Legitimate lenders will not ask for upfront fees or sensitive information over the phone.
- Be Wary of Unsolicited Calls: Beware of unsolicited loan offers received through phone calls or emails and refrain from sharing information or sending money without proper verification. Be sceptical of offers that seem too good to be true or involve high-pressure sales tactics.
- Seek Professional Advice: Consult with trusted financial advisors or credit counsellors to navigate loan options and identify potential scams. They can provide guidance on legitimate lending sources and help evaluate loan offers.
- Double-Check Documents: Carefully scrutinise loan agreements, fine print, and financial documents before signing or making any commitments. Pay attention to inconsistencies, grammatical errors, or unusual requests indicating fraudulent activity.
- Report Suspicious Activities: If you encounter a loan call scam, report the incident to local law enforcement authorities and your local consumer protection agency. This information can help authorities track and investigate scammers, preventing future victims.
What to do if Trapped in a Loan Call Scam
Cease Communication: Immediately cease all communication with the scammer and refrain from making any further payments or sharing additional information. Cutting off contact with the scammer reduces the risk of further exploitation.
Contact Authorities: Report the incident to the appropriate authorities and provide them with all relevant information and documentation. This includes details of the scammer, phone numbers, and any evidence of fraudulent activities.
Monitor Financial Accounts: Regularly monitor bank statements, credit reports, and other financial transactions for any signs of fraudulent activity. Notify your bank or financial institution if you notice any unauthorised charges or suspicious activities.
Legal Remedies for Victims-
National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal– One powerful resource available to victims is the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, equipped with a 24×7 helpline number, 1930. This portal is a centralised platform for reporting cybercrimes, including financial fraud.
Filing a Criminal Complaint: Victims can file a complaint with the local police against the fraudsters involved in the loan scam. The police will investigate the matter and if sufficient evidence is found, they can initiate criminal proceedings against the perpetrators.
Consumer Complaints: Victims can file a complaint with the consumer forums established under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The forums have jurisdiction to hear cases related to unfair trade practices, service deficiency, or unfair contracts. Depending on the claim’s value, victims can approach the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, or the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit: Victims can initiate a civil lawsuit against the fraudsters in the appropriate civil court seeking compensation for their financial losses and damages suffered. This legal action can help victims recover their money and hold scammers accountable for their actions.
Approaching Economic Offenses Wing: Victims can approach the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) of the local police or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) if the fraud involves significant money or organised criminal activities. These agencies specialise in investigating and prosecuting financial crimes.
Seeking Redressal from Regulatory Authorities: Victims can approach regulatory authorities such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) if the fraud was committed by a financial institution or involved in securities. These authorities can investigate and take action against entities involved in fraudulent activities.
Loan call scams continue to threaten individuals seeking financial assistance significantly. By understanding the methods employed by scammers, recognising the targeted population, and adopting preventive measures and best practices, individuals can protect themselves from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Increased awareness and collaboration between consumers, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies are crucial in combating loan call scams and mitigating their damaging consequences.
Author: Neeraj Soni, Intern – Policy and Advocacy, CyberPeace