The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of a loan company taking advantage of people having financial trouble by offering loans that don't exist while stealing from them.

The company in question is called Highrise Loans. The BBB has received 38 complaints, negative reviews, and scam tracker reports from consumers across 20 different states in the U.S.  This fraudulent company has stolen thousands of dollars from consumers.

Highrise Loans would contact people who had applied for a loan and tell them their loan applications were approved.  They then send the consumers' loan documentation requiring bank account information. It all looked very convincing as the company uses the BBB Accredited Business seal and U.S. Department of the Treasury logo on lending documents without authorization.

After providing their banking information, Highrise Loans informed consumers that a partial amount of their approved loan was deposited into their accounts. In order to receive the remaining balance, Highrise Loans instructed consumers to purchase gift cards and provide the card numbers to the company.

I think we see where this is going.  Once people provided the gift cards to the company, they discovered the initial deposit was fraudulent.  Victims were then faced with paying back the money they spent on gift cards while dealing with trouble from bank caused by having an overdraft and fraudulent activity.  Meanwhile, the people behind this scam use the gift cards themselves.

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If you ever have a company ask you to purchase gift cards and provide the numbers to them, that is a huge red flag that you are about to get ripped off.  Another sure sign is being asked to pay an amount up front in order to get a large sum of money.

Here are other tips from the Better Business Bureau to avoid loan scams:

  • Assess your needs. There are different types of loans for different situations. Loans for buying a home, consolidating debts or personal loans are available. Look for a loan that fits your need and determine how much you need to borrow. Be cautious with lenders who pressure you to take a bigger loan than necessary.
  • Determine your financial status. Find out how much cash you have available for a down payment or other fees and look at your credit history to understand what a lender will see. You can check your credit report and credit score from any of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
  • Find the loan. Do plenty of research and comparison shopping to find the best loan for your needs. Understand the payment plans and interest rates offered with the loan.
  • Review documents. Read the loan documents thoroughly before signing any contracts, being sure to review details like amount, number of monthly payments, and fees. Don't be afraid to ask an attorney or trusted advisor any questions you may have.