Not all scammers are as obvious as the ones who spam your inbox claiming to be bank managers from Nigeria with millions of dollars to disburse. There are plenty of sophisticated crooks ready to prey on your business, and keen to exploit the meteoric growth in online lending.
So what are the most common scams and how can you spot them?
1. The peer lending scam
Peer-to-peer lending has become one of the most important sources of online financing. Unfortunately, there are some shadowy operators out there, using Facebook Messenger and other less traditional avenues to hook in victims.
The scam works like this: You’ll be contacted out of the blue and offered peer-to-peer financing, then asked to pay an arrangement fee or fork out for background checks. You’ll never see the promised cash and you could lose quite a bit of money, as well as data that can be used for identity theft.
2. The business angel scam
This is a variant on the peer lending scam, only this time the individual contacting you will claim to be a wealthy investor with plenty of cash on hand. After being flattered that your business sounds like an excellent investment prospect, you will be asked to pay for background checks, due diligence paperwork, or legal documentation.
3. The consultancy fee scam
This isn’t strictly speaking a scam, as it’s probably legal, but it’s a complete waste of money nonetheless. The individual or firm in question will approach you, claiming that obtaining business financing is so complicated that you stand no chance without their assistance.
In some cases, alongside coaching on getting a loan, you will be offered access to an exclusive low-interest deal, which probably doesn’t exist. Nobody said getting a loan was easy, but it certainly doesn’t require any special expertise—or anything that you can’t do yourself.
4. The credit repair scam
Most young businesses have an inadequate credit score. It’s a simple fact of life. However, there are plenty of predators out there who’ll be keen to convince you that they have the expertise and tools to transform your score—in return for a hefty fee, of course.
These services are a straightforward waste of time and money, and should not be confused with similar services for personal credit scores, where it is possible to make a difference.
5. The loan broker scam
Loan brokers exist to identify the right products for your business, make introductions to lenders, and prepare the paperwork to ensure a smooth process. There are plenty of legitimate and professional brokers, who get paid a commission from lenders for arranging loans; unfortunately, there are also quite a few sharks, who charge upfront fees for the same service.
6. The advance fee scam
Tantalising you with the prospect of a generous business loan with very low interest rates—even if your credit score is damaged or incomplete—the scammer will persuade you to part with an upfront arrangement or processing fee. Of course, the supposed loan will never materialise, and in any case legitimate lenders don’t require payment in advance.
So if you’re contacted out of the blue via Facebook Messenger or Skype, offered a deal that sounds too good to be true, and asked to pay an upfront fee, run far and run fast. In particular, be very careful of lenders without physical premises that you can visit or which use generic email addresses, and never give in to hard sell tactics. A legitimate lender won’t tell you that a particular offer is on the table for today and today only. In short, keep your wits about you and always trust your instincts.
SOURCE: ALL BUSINESS