CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - One Northeast Ohio man lost hundreds of dollars to an advance fee loan scam, falling victim to one of the top five scams reported to the Better Business Bureau.
Gunnar Zauszniewski was seeking a loan earlier this year to pay for rent and medical expenses. Zauszniewski said he is a former heroin addict and at that time he was not paying his bills or caring about his credit score. He said that's why he decided to look online for a $10,000 loan.
He found the website 60mincash.com, and said it seemed like the answer to his problems.
"It a had Facebook, Twitter and something else another site you could publicize it by," said Zauszniewski. "[It had] the regular things a loan site would have, a legitimate [site]."
The website states that in order to get a loan in minutes, applicants have to fill out a form, affirm they are 18 or older and provide a recent pay stub and checking account routing number.
Zauszniewski said he received a phone call from the company and was told he needed to provide some money up front in the form of Amazon gift cards. Zauszniewski said the person on the phone claimed to work with Amazon.
"The funny thing they wanted me to do $50 increments. The first [Amazon gift card] was $200 in $50 increments," said Zauszniewski. "Since I really never taken a loan out before I didn't know the process. It sounded good, but since I needed the money for medical, and rent and regular stuff. I kind of got a little, I don't know what the word is, more like excited that I was able to get the money maybe get through life for a little bit."
Zauszniewski said by the time he realized something was wrong – his money was gone.
"As soon as I get something saved up - I had enough money to pay rent and now I don't - and now I'm struggling to cover the rent. It's tough, it's tough out there and when you save money like that $500 is a lot of money to lose," said Zauszniewski. "I had the means to pay it back the interest rate was good and I fell for it."
It's a common scam in Ohio. The state Attorney General's office reported received more than 100 calls about advance fee loans or advance fee credit scams in the first nine months of 2011. The AG's office, at that time, had this rule of thumb: "Requests for wire transfers in exchange for a loan almost always signal a scam."
The fact that many people have been fooled doesn't make Zauszniewski feel better.
"It hurts that people out there want to damage other people's lives," said Zauszniewski. "It's really not about the money it's about the morals."
Advance fee loan scams are among the top five the Better Business Bureau sees nationally.
Sue McConnell, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Cleveland, told Cleveland 19 that the scam is common, with some common attributes.
"Often they say your credit score, credit history no problem. Bankruptcy? No problem. They'll guarantee you a loan. That is a big red flag right away," said McConnell.
The site Zauszniewski said he used, 60mincash.com, is declared by the BBB to be a scam.
There is a New York mailing address listed on the website, but the address doesn't exist, and the website is registered to a different company, Dollars on Call, in a different state.
Cleveland 19 called the number on the site and spoke to a man who said Zauszniewski will get his money back, but offered no proof. He also claimed that 60mincash.com is a "legitimate company" even saying on the phone, "this is not a scam."
The Better Business Bureau of Cleveland disagrees. "Dollars on Call has an 'F' rating with BBB due to unanswered complaints from consumers who paid advance fees for loans that never materialized. 60mincash.com is also 'F' rated by BBB," he said.
"The big red flag is the advance fee involved. That is not legal in Ohio. There is an issue about making you pay large sums of money up front to get a loan," said McConnell.
Here are the top five scams the BBB sees:
- Advance fee loan scams
- Employment related scams – that offer a great job where you can work whenever you want
- Home improvement related scams – Those are the traveling handy men type scammers who go door to door offering to fix things and disappear when the work falls apart.
- Online purchase scams – those too good to be true prices on fancy brands online.
- Fake check scams - when you get a check in the mail to deposit into your account, you’re supposed to send some of the money back, by the time the free check bounces – the money is gone.
McConnell said it's important to be aware of cell phones, tablets and technology.
"All these devices provide avenues for scammers to get to us," said McConnell. "Used to be that they had to knock on your door, send you something in the mail, or you had to go to their place of business. Now you sit in the comfort of your own home and scammers are in your home through various means."
Although the methods of how people are scammed may have changed, the ways to stay safe have stayed similar.
She said, though, it is nearly impossible to avoid being exposed to scams.
"If you never buy anything, I mean never donate to a charity, never try to find a job, never open an email, never answer your phone, don't get mail…I think it's impossible for you not to be exposed to some kind of scam in some fashion."
Watch the story at 11 p.m. May 5 on Cleveland 19.