Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Crooked Loan Companies
It all boils down to that old expression - "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." In this case, fifty billion dollars is stolen from Americans every year on loans that never materialize. Most of the victims - desperate for some quick cash - find themselves even further in debt. Seven's Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
(WSVN) -- Canadian Officer: "OK guys we have a search warrant for you in here."
You're watching Canadian cops working an international case.
Canadian Officer: "I already have evidence, don't even try to argue with me."
They're cracking down on loan companies operating across the border.
Boiler-room operations like this one have used phones and phony promises to separate Americans from their money for years.
Canadian Officer: "You guys have been operating a fraudulent loan company here..."
But it was brand new to Katherine Laverde.
Loan Victim Katherine Laverde says, "It's been bad, it's been very bad. I've lost a lot, I've lost more than what I gave them."
Laverde was about to be evicted from her apartment when she saw an ad promising quick money.
There was just one catch --
She was told she had to pay five hundred dollars up front - as insurance.
Katherine says, "These five hundred dollars weren't even mine. These five hundred dollars, I borrowed them from my father-in-law."
She sent the money by Western Union to a person she had never met and has never been able to reach since.
Katherine says, "I've called numerous amount of times and they hung up the phone on me, they were very rude to me, they would use foul language with me."
It's a story Brodie White has heard before.
The president of the South Florida Better Business Bureau says although these companies are illegal - they are harder to catch in Canada.
White says, "We have been fighting an organized crime ring from Canada for over two years now."
He says the red flag -- asking for money up front.
Chances are if you send it - you won't see it again anytime soon.
Brodie says, "No legitimate company asks you for money up front to process your loan."
Carmel Cafiero says, "Not only are these companies stealing money from people who need every penny that they have and then some -- they're also stealing identities."
Worse yet, some of the identities being stolen belong to members of the military.
Ronald Whaley says, "I was looking to get five thousand dollars."
Lieutenant Ronald Whaley turned over seven hundred dollars -- and all of his personal information - for nothing.
He says, "They wanted my military ID, my drivers license, if I remember correctly they wanted my SS card."
And now he's concerned his military ID could fall into the hands of terrorists.
Ronald says, "I don't know what these people have done with my information."
Bob Whitelaw says, "That piece of material info could be faxed instantaneously to any other part of the world."
Bob Whitelaw is President of the Canadian Council of the Better Business Bureau.
He says, "They're either doing two things with it, using it to represent that person or secondly selling it on the open market, that's what shook me up."
Whitelaw says Canada is spending millions to try to stop these companies.
Too late for Laverde --
Katherine says, "I ended up way deeper in debt."
But it may help others avoid being hit.
If you have a story for Carmel, the number to dial is 305-627-CLUE in Dade or 954-921-CLUE in Broward.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: