13 March 2014

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has warned potential borrowers about a lending scam which has used fake websites and online advertisements offering fake loans to target Australians.

The lending process includes borrowers being asked to make an upfront, advance payment to cover insurance costs, tax or similar, which is, of course, a scam.

ASIC says that the websites of some legitimate small lenders may have also been hacked in order to target consumers, although it has not yet specified which ones this may be.

ASIC’s statement includes the following:

'Borrowers are told that before a loan can be advanced they must first forward money for insurance, tax or other payments to a specified personal account or transfer money to an overseas account using Western Union or similar wire services. However, after borrowers make these payments, they never receive the loan.'

'The fake loan contracts look like legitimate contracts, but are often made in the name of an unregistered business or a company the scammers do not represent.'

'Borrowers are misled by the inclusion of identifiers, such as Australian credit licence numbers and Australian Company Numbers, belonging to genuine licensees.'

'Legitimate lenders who are authorised under the credit laws in Australia will collect upfront costs out of the loan disbursements when the loan is advanced, in accordance with the terms of the loan contract. They never ask you to transfer money to a third party or an overseas account before a loan is drawn down.'

There are many scams, including variations of online dating and 419 (or Nigerian) scams, that use social engineering to convince you to send money to the scammer.

Any request for money should be cause for suspicion.

A reputable lender will have a publicly available website on which you can cross check their credentials and contact details.

More information

Stay Smart Online has lots of good advice on how to protect yourself online from these kinds of scams. It also has information on how social engineering (PDF) is used, including how money or your personal information can be targeted.

ASIC’s media statement about this scam.

ASIC provides good information about different loan scams and what to look out for.

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Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.

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