April 20, 2011

Missouri Division of Finance: Consumers being targeted by loan scammers

Applicants, borrowers reporting fraudulent contacts

Jefferson City, Mo. - The Missouri Division of Finance says scam artists may be targeting consumers who hold mortgages, apply for loans or do other types of financial business in the state. The division says homeowners in Missouri have received bogus mailings inviting them to join a nonexistent class-action lawsuit. Other homeowners have been told to send their mortgage payments to a scammer claiming to be the new processor for the lender.

In another case, a division investigator working undercover applied for an online payday loan. He was then contacted repeatedly by a debt collector claiming he was behind on payments for that loan - while the loan had not even been approved by the lender. There have been reports from across the country that some consumers have sent money in response to these fraudulent collection efforts.

"Consumers with home loans need to know that some of their information is publicly available, including their property deed, the name of their lender and the amount borrowed," said Rich Weaver, commissioner of the Missouri Division of Finance. "This can attract con artists, so Missourians should be highly suspicious of any solicitation, debt collection call or other contact that comes from someone other than their lender."

Weaver offers the following tips for Missouri consumers:

  • If you're not past due on your loan, don't believe a stranger who says otherwise.
  • If there's any doubt about the balance or status of your loan, contact your lender.
  • If contacted by a debt collector, verify with your lender that you owe the money and that the collector is authorized to collect the debt.
  • Never give personal information to anyone who contacts you by phone or e-mail; only give out the information when you initiate the contact.

To file a complaint against a bank or lender, or to ask general questions about financial issues, consumers can contact the Division of Finance at 888-246-7225 or visit finance.mo.gov.

The Missouri Division of Finance regulates more than 6,000 financial institutions and individuals in the state, including banks, the residential mortgage industry and consumer lenders.