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"The secret of success is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake those, you've got it made." -- Groucho Marx

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Have you had difficulty obtaining a loan through normal sources? If so, you may become the target of an advance fee loan scheme. In such a scheme, a con artist offers you a "guaranteed" loan for a fee paid in advance.

The advance fee swindler claims to be able to obtain a loan for you with ease from a legitimate lending institution, such as a bank or a savings and loan association. However, the swindler has no ability to secure a loan for you. Instead, he either steals your fee and disappears or remains in the area to bilk other unsuspecting victims while stalling you with various excuses as to why your loan has not been funded.

Advance fee swindlers frequently ask for a percentage of the gross loan amount as their fee. For example, if a five percent fee is requested, you would have to pay $500 to obtain a loan of $10,000. There is much to lose if you lower your guard. If you are not dealing directly with a lending institution on your own behalf, the following guidelines will help you avoid being victimized by an advance fee swindler.

* Know who you are doing business with. Obtain the name of the loan representative and the name, address, and telephone number of the company.
* Don't accept the promoter's claims of guaranteed loan services at face value.
* Insist on being told the name of the lending institution which supposedly will fund your loan.
* Verify with the supposed lender all oral and written representations made by the promoter regarding support from that lender.
* Ask for names, addresses, and phone numbers of other customers of the promoter, and contact them to see if they got their loans.
* Consider consulting an attorney or accountant for advice.

Remember: Ask yourself why the promoter can obtain a loan for you from a legitimate lender when you yourself have been turned down for a loan, perhaps many times. Take care of your precious assets by exercising caution when asked to pay a loan fee in advance.

If you have been victimized in an advance fee scheme in which the U.S. Mail was used, report your experience to your local postmaster or the nearest Postal Inspector.

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