Applying for a loan, or been sent an offer you can’t refuse? Think twice about jumping at loan offers you receive via SMS or e-mail, or even clicking on links to special offers and coupons that you might have spotted on social media. Scams are getting smarter, and you don’t want to be caught in the middle.
Here’s how to spot and avoid some of the most common credit scams doing the rounds.
Common Credit Scams
Being offered credit when you’re already in a financial tight spot can be tempting, but this is exactly what scammers rely on when they pick their victims. A lot of credit scams look completely legit at first glance, but fall apart at the slightest investigation.
Here are some of the most common credit scams out there to watch out for right now.
SMS offers usually read something like this, “You qualify for a loan of R20, 000 – apply now! Blacklisted welcome.” Most of these aren’t legitimate, and the majority of these will steal either your money or your information and identity. Don’t click on these. Instead, go to the loan provider’s original website and check if they’re a registered credit provider from there.
Loan sharks (also called mashonisas in South Africa) might give you the money to start, but you’ll be in over your head before you know it. These loan providers are known for unethical business practices, illegal interest rates and other tactics (such as keeping someone’s ID document until a loan is paid). Avoid at all costs!
Phishing e-mails and messages are meant to look like they’re from a legitimate company when they’re not. These usually try to get victims to click on a link or to divulge personal information. Make sure that an e-mail is from the source it claims by double-checking the address it was sent from and asking the original sender (such as your bank) to confirm whether it was really sent from them.
Cryptocurrency scams offer huge returns at a low investment, although it usually ends with no investment at all when your money disappears. Before buying cryptocurrency, approach a reputable cryptocurrency provider over companies that you’ve never heard of – or speak to the personal finance advisor at your bank.
Coupon offers usually appear on social media, though sometimes arrive via e-mail or SMS. These offer you store credit, vouchers, or discounts – and they usually have the company’s logo on it. Again, the goal here is to get victims to click on a link or give up their personal information. Don’t fall for it! Rather contact the original company and ask if it’s a legitimate coupon offer, voucher, or credit before clicking on anything.
Catfishing is an increasingly popular scam, and if you’ve recently met a lover online and things just seem too good to be true, they usually are. Sometimes this scam goes on for weeks, months, or years at a time – and it can seem completely for-real until you’ve been separated from thousands of your hard-earned cash.
Unregistered Loans Companies:
Unregistered loan companies are a huge issue for the financial industry. Always double-check the registration info for your loans company with the NCR if you want to be sure that you’re getting a loan from a reputable and registered loans company – or, well, take the risk of losing either your information or your money.
Is it Legit? How to Check
Want to be sure that a loan provider or offer is for real? Here are three ways to be sure.
1. Check the NCR Registration
All legal credit providers in South Africa have to be registered as such with the National Credit Regulator, and this registration info has to be openly displayed on the provider’s website – usually somewhere at the bottom of the page. Double-check registration numbers here at the official NCR website before applying for a loan.
2. Search the Scam
If you’ve spotted a scam, it’s likely that it’s already hit a few people before you. Turn to search engines to find out more about common scams, coupon offers, and fake loan providers. Just a simple search can tell you everything you need to know.
3. Contact the Company
If you get any offers, e-mails, or messages that you suspect might not be as legitimate as it claims, contact the original company and ask them if they’re aware of this coupon or offer and if it’s from them or not. Most companies are glad that you let them know, and you save a few hundred to a few thousand people from this scam in the process.
Alex J. Coyne
Alex J. Coyne is a writer, journalist and card player. He's been published in international publications including Moneyweb, CollegeHumor, Funds for Writers, Great Bridge Links, Bridge Canada Magazine and a variety of others