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Advance Fee Loan Sharks

A breed of "loan shark" lurks, preying on unwary consumers by taking their money for the promise of a loan, credit card or other extension of credit. Advertisements and promotions for advance-fee loans "guarantee" or suggest that there’s a high likelihood of success that the loan will be awarded, regardless of the applicant’s credit history. But, to take advantage of the offer, the consumer first has to pay a fee. And that's the catch: The consumer pays the fee, the scam artist takes off with the money, and the loan never materializes.

Legitimate guaranteed offers of credit do not require payments up front. Legitimate lenders may require consumers to pay application, appraisal or credit report fees, but these fees seldom are required before the lender is identified and the application completed. In addition, the fees generally are paid to the lender, not to the broker or arranger of the "guaranteed" loan.

Legitimate lenders may guarantee firm offers of credit to credit-worthy consumers, but they rarely do this before evaluating a consumer's creditworthiness.

Advertisements for advance-fee loans generally appear in the classified section of daily and weekly newspapers and magazines. Often, the ads feature "900" numbers, which result in charges on your phone bill. Advance-fee loans also are promoted through direct mail, e-mail (often spam), radio and cable TV spots. The appearance of ads in media outlets that you recognize — like your local newspaper or radio station — is no guarantee of the legitimacy of the company behind the ad.

The Federal Trade Commission offers tips to avoid being scammed by advance-fee loan sharks:

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