A 78-year-old Wilkes County woman reported the loss of a little over $2,000 in an online scam.

Capt. Mike Scott of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office said the woman told him on Sept. 30 that the scam involved a personal loan.

Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew said the incident reflected a surge in scams in which people claiming to represent a certain lending company contacted victims and offered them loans, but said they needed to send eBay gift cards, pre-paid Visa’s or other cards with monetary value for the loans to be processed and sent to the victims.

Shew said some victims reported spending up to $2,200 on gift cards thinking they would receive personal loans through the company. He said the company has a website, actual phone numbers and customer service representatives.

Shew said the public needs to be cautious with purported loan processing companies that call or contact them in some other way unsolicited.

The Federal Trade Commission reported that personal loan scams were already a problem but worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Insurance Information Institute, a trade group, reported recording nearly 44,000 reports of potential personal and business loan scams last year.

These scams are carried out to collect funds or Social Security numbers without loaning any money.

According to an article on the Forbes website, being told payment up front in any form is required to receive a loan indicates a scam. Loan application or origination fees are typically paid at closing and generally come out of loan proceeds.

Pre-approved loans, guaranteed loan approvals or no credit checks are common themes in personal loan scams, stated the Forbes article.

In addition to guaranteeing a loan before checking a person’s financial history, unsolicited, direct loan offers are scam indicators.

Offers that are too good to be true, vagueness about fees and lending requirements, claiming credit scores don’t matter and pressure to act quickly are all warning signs.

Check out the company that offered a loan by researching it online. A reputable financial institution should have ample information about itself online.

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