Vancouver, BC - July 31, 2013- Better Business Bureau serving Mainland British Columbia is cautioning consumers to be careful when using online lenders. BBB advises consumers to research a company or website’s reputation and read all the fine print before giving your personal information or signing any agreements.
Over the past 3 years, BBB has received more than 1,140 complaints across North America against online lenders. Many of those complaints allege fraud — including companies initiating loans or withdrawing money without permission, or calling to collect a debt that the consumer claims was never owed. Other complaints allege poor customer service or unscrupulous collection tactics.
Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC examined several BC-based websites that appeared to operate targeting American citizens for short-term or payday loans of about $500.
Two Vancouver-based companies, Atlasmoneyonline.com operated by First West Coast Financial Services (BBB Business Review link), and Easycashonlinestore.com operated by Camosun Financial Services (BBB Business Review link) are owned by a Matthew Vickers. Both companies have F ratings with the Better Business Bureau for failure to respond to complaints and US government actions against both companies. The BBB attempted to contact both companies but the mail was returned.
Complainants who have filed with the Better Business Bureau allege that the Atlasmoneyonline.com and Easycashonlinestore.com have over-billed their bank accounts for more than the amount originally agreed upon due to an issue with the company's automatic billing practices. Additionally, one consumer alleges that Atlasmoneyonline.com is aggressively pursuing collections with them despite not having contacted the company previously.
Atlasmoneyonline.com had a government action in the State of New Hampshire last year that stated the company must pay a $10,000 administrative fine to the State of New Hampshire Banking Department and consumer restitution in the amount of $2,370 due to their lending practices. Easycashonlinestore.com was also found to be in violation of California State law and its payday lending transactions involving Californian residents to be voided.
The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions issued a cease and desist order to both Atlasmoneyonline.com and Easycashonlinestore.com in 2010 for being unlicensed payday lenders targeting consumers in their state.
BBB contacted the call centre linked to both companies and verified that the call centre answers calls for seven payday lending websites which all offer the same rates and conditions for clients, but the call centre representative would not divulge the other names of the websites. BBB did find out the Matthew Vickers also owns Coldcashtoday.com (BBB Business Review link), which appears to be currently an inactive website and MyQuikLoan.com (BBB Business Review link). BBB attempted to contact Matthew Vickers but BBB received no response to both letters and emails sent.
For those considering an online payday lender, BBB offers the following tips:
Start with trust. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review to see its rating, history of complaints and other information. Never pay an up-front fee. Some short-term loan providers will ask for a post-dated check to cover the amount you borrowed plus interest and fees. However, if any lender asks for those fees in cash before giving you any money, walk away — especially if it’s an online lender asking for money via wire transfer. Charging up-front fees is illegal, and cash sent by wire cannot be traced.
Limit the amount you borrow. Only borrow what you know you can pay off with your first paycheck. Most companies will allow you to “rollover” the balance for several weeks or months, but tack on fees the whole time. This can result in you owing several times what you borrowed in the first place.
Know Your Rights. Is the loan you are considering a payday loan? Payday loans are small, short-term loans of $1,500 or less that must be repaid within 62 days. There are laws in BC regulating the payday lending industry, which is administered by Consumer Protection BC. To submit a complaint, find a licensed payday lender or for more information about payday lending, please connect with Consumer Protection BC at www.paydayloanrightsbc.ca.
Read the fine print. Pay close attention to fees and consequences of non-payment. Will the company allow you to make arrangements if you cannot pay? If you provide an asset as security like a car, what happens to the asset if you do not pay?
Keep your documentation. Many consumers said they started receiving calls from collections agencies years after they paid off a payday loan. Some of these calls were simple errors; others were attempts to collect a debt that is not owed. Protect yourself by having documentation that all loans were paid in full.
Know where to turn. If you feel a lender has committed fraud or taken advantage, file a complaint with BBB at mbc.bbb.org.