SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Oregon Financial Regulatory Division on Friday warned consumers of fraudulent activity by an alleged internet mortgage and consumer finance company that is committing a scam on upfront fees, as well as identity theft of a legitimate business.
The division said it received five complaints from victims of the advance fee scam. Four of the five complaints were filed in the past year. The crooks co-opted the name and address of a real Portland-based company named Canyon Investments. The real Canyon Investments has nothing to do with the loan scam.
The scammers, whose division was unable to determine the identity, set up an impostor website to make it look like the real Canyon Investments. They use Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), phone apps, fraudulent emails, and archive photos to create the appearance of a legitimate business offering financing for real estate purchases and investments. The real Canyon Investments does not have a website and does not offer loans to consumers.
As part of the fraud, the scammer convinces his victims that they have been approved for a loan, but, in order to receive the loan funds, the victims have to pay various upfront fees. These charges are not sent directly to the scammer or the alleged company, but rather to accounts on behalf of people who are acting as intermediaries in the scam.
These middlemen, or “money mules” (people who transfer or move illegally acquired money on behalf of someone else), then transfer most of the funds to the crooks after keeping 5-10% as a fee. . Scammers also sometimes ask victims to send cryptocurrency, usually Bitcoin, as payment for these alleged fees.
“The information provided by the victims of the scam indicated that paying the fees only leads to requests for more money in order to pay an ongoing list of endless fees,” said TK Keen, administrator of the division, which is part of the department. consumer and business services. “In reality, there is no loan, and once a victim finds out this harsh truth and stops paying the fees, the crooks stop all communication.”
The investigation also revealed that the money mules who received and transferred victims’ funds are often victims themselves. In the most recent complaint, the Money Mule was scammed online. He believed he was in a relationship with a woman who asked him to receive and transfer funds for a business she was working in.
“He received a commission on this transfer, but it was small and it appears he was unaware that he was involved in this fraudulent and criminal activity,” Keen said. “Don’t transfer money from people you don’t know to people you don’t know.”
State and federal laws require that certain consumer credit lenders and all mortgage brokers, mortgage lenders, and mortgage originators be licensed. The division recommends that people check with any consumer finance or mortgage company before signing documents or sending money. People can verify a business license or registration by accessing the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) database https://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org. Also, it is best to contact this company directly to confirm payment instructions before sending funds to any intermediary claiming to receive funds on their behalf.
“It is important that consumers do not work with a lender until they have confirmed that it is a legitimate and licensed business.” Keen said. “The best way to protect yourself against fraud is to verify that the loan company is legally authorized to engage in mortgage or consumer credit business. “
Consumers can also contact the division’s lawyers at 888-877-4894 (toll free) to ask questions, file complaints, or verify the license of a broker, lender, or loan originator.
The Financial Regulation Division is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit dfr.oregon.gov and dcbs.oregon.gov.