Woman out $800 after falling for scam

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 5, 2002

Kathy Lowe(The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

[04/05/02}A Vicksburg woman says she is out $800 due to an offer of an easy loan and wants to warn others.

Kathy Lowe, 228 Hillside Drive, became one of an increasing number of people officials say are seeking debt consolidation and losing money. Lowe said it wasn’t until after she sent a company $800 and never heard from it again that she knew something was wrong.

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“The more I thought about it the madder I got,” she said.

Lowe, a grandmother of nine, first called the toll-free number printed in an ad in The Vicksburg Post on March 20. She wanted to borrow $2,500 to pay off other debts. After a couple of more phone calls and faxing paperwork back and forth to an address in Manchester, Conn., she was told she could get $5,000 if she wired wire $859 to Canada for insurance costs.

“That makes sense. With the economy the way it is, people never know when they’ll get laid off,” Lowe said.

But, Mike Rhodes with the consumer protection division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office said that is when “the bells and whistles should have gone off.”

“Often the con artist will say that the bank makes you pay points up front, but they don’t,” Rhodes said. “They’ll say almost anything to get you to pay money up front.”

Lowe said that the voice on the phone promised the loan would be deposited directly into her checking account within 24 hours, but the money never came.

She contacted the Attorney General’s Office after calling the newspaper. While many debt consolidation and installment loan programs are legitimate as advertised on TV and radio, in newspapers, magazines and elsewhere, Rhodes said the advanced fee loan scam is a common variation of telephone schemes that cost U.S. citizens about $40 billion annually.

Rhodes contacted Project Phone Busters, a special division of the Ontario Police Department set up to investigate phone scams. It is illegal in Canada to request money up front for a loan, he said.

“Apparently this type of scam is occurring on a frequent basis out of Canada,” Rhodes said.

And, it’s not uncommon in Mississippi, he said.

Last year, the Attorney General’s Office obtained a “sucker list” used by con artists to identify people likely to fall for telephone scams. Using volunteers with the AARP, they contacted about 5,000 Mississippians on that list to warn them about telephone scams.

Although Lowe was not contacted through that list, Rhodes said the scam works the same way.

According to Rhodes, in either scam, the people will give fake names and addresses and do everything by phone or fax. Usually, the con artist will set up somewhere for a couple of weeks and then move leaving authorities no way to find them, he said.

He said that ads like the one that Lowe called are often placed in various publications across the country or on the Internet. The person placing the ad usually does everything over the phone or by fax and pays using a money order making it difficult to trace.

In the case of Delta Credit, the name of the company in the ad Lowe called, there was a toll-free number to contact. The forms that were faxed to her gave an address of 675 Progress Drive, Manchester, Conn., but Manchester’s Tax Assessor’s Office said that address does not exist.

Addresses on Progress Drive end at 372, a deputy clerk there said.

“It just seemed like it was too easy,” Lowe said. “I should have gone with my instincts.”

The Connecticut Secretary of State’s Office also had no record of any company doing business in that state under the name Delta Credit Services Inc. State law there requires all companies transacting business in Connecticut to apply for a certificate of authority from the Secretary of State.

Telephone calls to the person listed as CEO of Delta Credit Services on the forms sent to Lowe were not returned.

“I’ve learned a very valuable lesson. A very costly lesson, but a valuable lesson,” Lowe said. “I just don’t want to see anybody else get hurt like this.”

Rhodes said that even if they are able to locate the people with Delta Credit Service, it is still difficult to retrieve money once it has left the country.

“There is a slim chance of getting her money back, but it is a slim chance,” Rhodes said.