Preapproval scams can be annoying and destructive, but you can outsmart them. Here is what you need to know about preapproval scams and how to stay safe.
How the scams play out
In a preapproval scam, a target receives a letter in the mail, an email or a text message informing them they are preapproved, or “prescreened,” for a large loan. The letter is often accompanied by a live check, or an unsolicited check that can be cashed in by the named recipient – which is you. The letter may also be highly relevant to your life. For example, if you are in the market for a new home, the offer may feature an alleged preapproved mortgage loan. If you are looking for a new set of wheels, the letter will likely offer a bogus auto loan. More commonly, though, the offer will be a personal, or unsecured loan, through a mailed check.
The authentic-looking check cannot be cashed unless the recipient shares their personal information. Of course, this means providing a scammer, or a scam ring, with all the info they need to access your accounts, commit identity theft or worse. In addition, the check may appear to clear but then bounce a few days later, leaving you to pick up the tab for any of the money you have spent. Finally, if you really do need to take out a large loan, the bogus offer can set you back significantly by hurting your credit score.
Checklist for legitimate preapproval offers
If you have a credit history, you have likely received these preapproval offers at least several times. Some of them are actually legitimate offers to cover a loan for a large amount. How, then, can you tell which of these offers are legitimate or scam? If you receive an offer, look for this information to verify the authenticity of the offer:
- A disclosure of the loan fees
- The annual percentage rate (APR), which is the annual cost of the loan
- The payment schedule
- The loan agreement
- A privacy notice about the sharing of your personal information
- An opt-out notice for future offers
- Contact information for the sender, which includes a number and street address
If any of this info is missing from the preapproval offer, you are likely looking at a scam.
If you have been targeted
If you believe you have been targeted by a preapproval scam, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Do not engage with the scammer and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/. You can also alert the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the FCC complaint center.
Make sure to utilize your Benefits Plus® checking account with SeaComm as a way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity! Once you’ve upgraded to a Benefits Plus® checking, you will gain access to a variety of identity theft protection services including fraud alerts, identity theft alerts, lost document recovery services, and more. Stop by your local SeaComm branch to upgrade your checking account, today.
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.
TIP: As a member of SeaComm, you may already be preapproved for a loan through our preapproval program, LoanEngine™. This program allows you to view and accept loan offers without having to come into a branch or fill out an application. If you qualify for a preapproved offer, you will be presented with it through our SeaComm Mobile app or NetTeller™ in the “My Offers” tab, via email, and/or a letter through the mail. Click here to login to your NetTeller™ to view your current offers. If you don’t have any offers at this time, be sure to check back every 60 days.