Amid the current pandemic our nation is facing, consumers across the country are facing financial hardships and exploring options for assistance. Unfortunately, it's during these vulnerable times that consumers may be victimized by scammers and illegitimate businesses.
One company, Highrise Loans, recently became the focus of a BBB investigation after consumers across the country alleged fraudulent activity resulting in thousands of dollars lost.
Within the last two months, BBB has received 38 complaints, negative reviews, and scam tracker reports from consumers in 20 different states.
Consumers who completed a loan application told BBB Highrise Loans contacted them saying their application was approved. Highrise Loans would then send the consumer’s loan documentation, which required bank account information from the consumer. Many consumers said everything about the process initially appeared legitimate.
BBB obtained copies of the lending documents and found the company using the BBB Accredited Business seal and U.S. Department of the Treasury logo without authorization.
After providing Highrise Loans their banking information, consumers were told that a partial amount of their approved loan was deposited into their account. Consumers were then told that in order to receive the remaining balance, they needed to purchase gift cards and provide the card numbers to the company.
Once the gift cards were provided to Highrise Loans, consumers discovered the initial deposit was fraudulent. Victims’ banks required them to pay back the amount spent on gift cards, resulting in limited or no access to their accounts due to an overdraft or fraudulent activity flags on their bank accounts.
One victim reported an approved loanof $10,000 along with a request to send Target gift cards to Highrise Loans while the money was in the process of being deposited into their bank account. The victim lost all accounts funds and is liable for the $1,200 spent on gift cards.
Another consumer, upon discovering the company was fraudulent and deciding not to proceed with the loan, reported being intimidated. The consumer told BBB Highrise Loans threatened to sell his personal information online.
According to the company's website, www.highriseloans.co, the company maintains a business address in Austin, Texas. However, letters BBB mailed to the company were returned and a visit to the location found both the address and Highrise Loans to be nonexistent.
Additionally, BBB's investigation found a separate business name that appears to be operated by the Highrise Loans owners. On August 4, 2020, BBB received a new scam tracker report against a company named Pacifica Finance.
The scam report alleges Pacifica is following the Highrise Loans playbook at www.pacificafinance.co. BBB has since received an additional four complaints against Pacifica Finance.
Highrise Loans has failed to respond to BBB's attempts to address its concerns and currently maintains an F rating.
To prevent falling victim to similar scams, use these tips from your BBB when applying for a loan:
• Assess your needs. There are different types of loans for different situations. Loans for buying a home, consolidating debts or personal loans are available. Look for a loan that fits your need and determine how much you need to borrow. Be cautious with lenders who pressure you to take a bigger loan than necessary.
• Determine your financial status. Find out how much cash you have available for a down payment or other fees and look at your credit history to understand what a lender will see. You can check your credit report and credit score from any of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Consumers are entitled to a free report from each company once every 12 months.
• Find the loan. Do plenty of research and comparison shopping to find the best loan for your needs. Understand the payment plans and interest rates offered with the loan.
• Review documents. Read the loan documents thoroughly before signing any contracts, being sure to review details like amount, number of monthly payments, and fees. Don't be afraid to ask an attorney or trusted advisor any questions you may have.
• Never pay in gift cards. No legitimate lender would ever ask you to buy and provide them with gift cards in exchange for funds.
Visit BBB.org for more tips on loans and to search for business profiles.
ABOUT BBB®: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2019, people turned to BBB more than 183 million times for BBB Business Profiles on nearly 5.8 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The International Association of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico. BBB Serving the Heart of Texas serves 105 counties in Austin, Bryan, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Permian Basin, San Antonio and Waco.