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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Scam in Progress (and this is what it’s like)

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Scam in Progress (and this is what it’s like)

Over three weeks ago, back on May 23rd, we were visited by an old acquaintance we hoped we’d seen the back of 3 years ago. The last time we met, back in 2020 just before a mysterious flu virus swept the world, his MO was a bit different but the effects were the same. Being scammed is a bit like coming home to find your house or flat has been burgled. It’s that same sense of an uninvited someone coming into your domain (literally in this case) and putting their filthy fingers over everything they touch. So whether it’s your antique Capo di Monte or your back end H2 headings, an uninvited and unwelcome intrusion is still a Scam in Progress.

The first idea we had about the scam was when our normally quiet Whatsapp feed started to get busy with people talking about the loan offer they had just received. Bearing in mind the loan space of the internet can attract some of the more unhinged members of society, we just ignored them. For a while. Until it became obvious (about 15 minutes) there was something afoot.

Panic and Pingtrees

As brokers we don’t offer loans and the site is full of messages about not being lenders and not calling or emailing our customers. Plus, as we operate a pingtree system and opted not to own your data we can’t see who you are or any of your details even when you apply for a loan. That’s because of the aforementioned and also that the application form is one line of script on our site and in a magical piece of now you see us now you don’t, as soon as you press ‘Submit’, any data that might have been there is gone and fully owned by the people who own the pingtree – T.UK.

However, as it was becoming apparent that a potential hack may have been in progress we quickly went into panic and search mode and began to go through the site with a fine toothed comb looking for any signs of a hack. Six hours later we were certain the site was safe and continues to be today. As it transpired our scammer was somehow getting access to people’s data we got onto T.UK to tell them and ask them to check their systems to make sure it wasn’t coming from their end – it wasn’t. Our owner’s email account was also checked and double checked to ensure integrity and all was so far so good.

By now we had reported the matter to the police and Action Fraud (Crime Ref No NFRC 2305 0595 4477) as well as our regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We were sure everything at our end was safe and secure so how was the scammer getting his data? This is where our ‘man’ is quite good at his job (he’s an awful conman but good technically). From talking to a few desperate and bemused customers we slowly started piecing together how we think he may be operating – this time.

Who’s a Busy Boy Then?

So what’s happening? Having discounted being hacked or him somehow intercepting data going between us and T.UK it started to make sense that he had a phishing site set up to cream off information to use in the scam. Or maybe he was advertising somewhere for bad credit loans and skimming from there? A couple of customers mentioned bad credit broker portals (never heard of them!) which led us to think he was using a landing page on a legit website unbeknown to them. Or maybe he’d cloned a well known trusted site like the one with meerkats in it whereby you feel safe to leave your phone number and email address not realising you’re about to enter telephone hell where it never stops ringing with oh so ‘nice’ people offering you money – if you give them some money first!

He works strange hours sometimes going all night up til around 8.30 am sending out his fake loan offers with our email signature and a phone number that doesn’t ring and an email address that returns ‘undeliverable’ – lots of them. Then he goes away for a while to return at lunchtime and work through until the evening again. He’s a busy boy. Unless it’s an Indian boiler room scam shop setup. That would explain the hours at least. And mean there’s a lot more than one of him.

One morning around 8.00am we got a call from a woman who could actually remember where she’d been searching for a loan. When most people look for an internet loan they will visit tens of sites and possibly leave their contact info on more than one. (Never, ever leave your genuine email address and phone number ANYWHERE these days. There are lies and deception everywhere and often in the places you least expect to find it.)

However, our woman could tell us she had been on a site called wisdomfinance.co.uk and applied for a loan there. We checked it out and guess what? Yep – that could be his and it’s got scam site written all over it. Just the first sentence should tell you, or at least alert you, that all is not as it seems because it’s written in an English language style we can only call utter b******s. Hardly any of it makes sense. There’s no FCA number down the bottom and no ICO number either. Read our blog post on how to spot a scam loan site and see how many errors you can see on the site. There’s another one too and that’s fastmoneyfinance.co.uk. They even have the brass cajones to state they never ask for upfront fees – ha!

Here Comes the Punchline

He gets these sites to rank for one or two bad credit keywords, you go to the site and apply for a loan and next thing you know he’s ringing you up asking for a £150 payment for ‘bad credit loan insurance’ – something that doesn’t exist. At this point most people wise up and realise it’s a scam but unfortunately some don’t. To him it’s a numbers game and if you pay the first £50 he’s back for more. Again and again and again. Then he magically disappears leaving you wondering when your loan is going to appear in your bank account.

Now starting to clock on you use a search engine to search our name and ring me up only to discover you just lost your money but could have stopped it if only you’d taken the time to investigate a bit further.

His other method is to send out a loan offer to you with our address on it but a fake phone number and our doctored email address – obvious again? He asks you for your bank details and again starts the ringing process. If a so-called UK company gives you bank details to pay into in the Maldives, surely you might find that just a little bit suspicious? Apparently some people don’t. Perhaps they also have offshore bank accounts for those little occasional now and again expenses?

Some people have the good sense to contact us via the site or even search for our phone number and ring us directly. As nobody ever calls us and we don’t call you we instantly know it’s another of the scammed and try and get you to stop any transaction now before it’s too late. This usually works but sometimes not.

We know when it’s going to start because our direct traffic numbers start to climb quickly. We usually get around 10-15 direct customers a day. Where they come from we don’t know because Google doesn’t specify but when they become 150-200 coming our way it’s clear it’s him directing traffic our way – thanks but we’d rather not have it. The traffic seems to come in bursts from a few early morning then ramp up after lunch and on through until nighttime.

Do Your Own Research

Every morning when I switch on my laptop there will be attempted scams from seemingly everyone I’ve ever dealt with. Yes, I too left my phone number and email address once on a crypto trading platform and have regretted it ever since. The inland revenue, my bank, DHL, Amazon Prime, Netflix – none of them are the real thing and all of them are scam attempts. Unfortunately it leaves us being able to trust no one and nothing any longer. What a situation we find ourselves in.

You hear this almost everywhere you go and it’s worth repeating over and over again. Sometimes the scam is easy to spot but here’s the thing. Even if you don’t think you are being scammed, stop and think. Do your own research and then do it again. We’ve put some pointers in the previous blog post about what to look for but here’s the big one – nobody in the UK financial services industry will EVER ask you for money up front – EVER. If someone does – it’s a scam. Go no further. Block their numbers and email addresses. Give no one any money. Call Action Fraud and report it. Report it to the Financial Conduct Authority.

And do this every single time.

Please remember that Badger Loans does not offer loans or send out loan offers. If you’ve got one you are being scammed. We NEVER call our customers. We NEVER email our customers. We do not have your data to do so.

In the meantime we have given as much detail as we can to these guys because frankly, plod just doesn’t cut the mustard these days.

They’re coming to get you………………………………………………………………………..

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