Consumer Watch: New Breed of Payday Lender Emerges With Optional Fees
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In a new twist, an amorphous payday loan network known as FastLoan4Me has found another way to squeeze money from consumers: an undisclosed “optional” fee that is added to “free” apps. FastLoan4Me.com and its related sites are “free” unless you sign up for their optional $ 30 support program. But, according to their terms and conditions:
By initialing your acceptance of the terms and conditions of this website and selecting the Submit button, you agree to the Fastloan4me.com Fundraising Assistance Program registration fee from $ 30.00 (Thirty Dollars and Zero Cent), which will be debited from your bank account by electronic check
This $ 30 fee is not disclosed anywhere on the application page – you have to browse the terms and conditions to find it. Since the fees are taken from the customer’s bank account, many people have been overdrawn and faced additional charges of $ 25- $ 35 from their banks.
FastLoan4Me and its affiliates have registered 540 complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and nearly 1,500 entire complaints on Scambook.com.
The payday lending industry has already come under scrutiny for providing desperate clients with short-term, high-interest, and often-rolling loans; this lending network borders on deceptive marketing. And it’s only getting worse:
Impossible to reach
Once you enter your information into FastLoan4Me’s system, they can contact you in perpetuity:
You agree that we may contact you by telephone, through a live operator or recorded announcement, or by electronic communication over the Internet once you have registered for the Fastloan4me.com program, notwithstanding your registration on a telephone number list or prohibited market. You can call our customer service representatives at any time to withdraw your authorization to receive pre-recorded announcements.
Note that the site offers consumers a way to opt out of their email and phone communications: call or email their support team. However, there is only one problem – e-mail is not working. A request sent to [email protected] (the only email listed) bounced; calls to their customer service number went directly to voicemail.
According to the BBB, a letter sent in February 2013 to FastLoan4Me’s address – a post office box in Nevada – was returned with a “refused” label.
Not the only suspicious site out there
FastLoan4Me isn’t the only website that charges an optional $ 30 fee; its sister sites include FastLoanFast and Loan4UToday. Trying to find the real owner of these sites is a nightmare: All three terms and conditions mention Vantage Funding, which to our knowledge does not have a publicly available website or information.
Calling the customer support number – it’s the same for all three sites – no longer gives any information. The scripted response reads as follows:
Thank you for calling the loan verification service. We are your one stop shop for low cost loans. To verify your loan, please visit the web address you applied with. We also offer e-mail support; the address is on the site.
Nowhere in this message is the actual name of the company, website, or support email mentioned.
What should consumers look for?
Consumers should avoid FastLoans4Me and its sister websites, but as we’ve seen, it’s hard to say on your own. Fortunately, there are two easy ways to identify this shady network:
- A customer support number of 775-200-1525 – this is shared between the three sites
- Websites that look like the photo above.
However, this will only help protect against that specific lending network. Payday loans have their share of shady characters; Whoever you borrow from, follow these steps to stay safe:
- Search the Better Business Bureau, Ripoff Report, and similar complaint forums to see if anyone has been abused.
- Avoid any site that says you will get a loan without a social security number or other form of identification.
- Avoid any site that guarantees you a loan no matter what.
Remember that payday loans are a very expensive form of credit. If you’re strapped for cash now, you’ll likely be strapped for cash in two weeks when the loan matures. Then you will have to pay the loan fees again, as well as the interest. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has frightening statistics on short-term loans; keep these numbers in mind before applying.