Do these 5 things before choosing a personal loan lender

As personal loan borrowing increases, so do personal loan scams. Be sure to follow these tips on vetting personal loan lenders before applying for a loan. (iStock)

Personal loan borrowing has been increasing dramatically over the past five years. And with the financial hardships many have faced during the pandemic, personal loans are a more important financial tool than ever.

Unfortunately, this surge in borrowing has brought with it an increase in scams. Fraud in the financial industry isn’t a new trend. According to data from the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost more than $1.9 billion to fraud in 2019. Given the other economic challenges people are facing right now, it’s more important than ever that people be able to recognize the signs of a personal loan scan.

How do you shop around for a personal loan?

When you’re shopping around for a personal loan lender, you want to vet prospective lenders and make sure the companies you’re considering doing business with are reputable and trustworthy.

Online marketplace Credible is a great place to start. With Credible, you can compare rates and lenders in one window — plus, it’s 100% free!

5 things to do before picking a personal loan lender

However, before you land on a lender, you’re going to want to follow this simple checklist in order to save money and time. Here are five things you should do before applying for a personal loan.

  1. Look for information about the lender
  2. Make sure their website is legitimate
  3. Read online reviews
  4. Use government tools to vet
  5. Shop and compare loan rates

1. Look for information about the lender

Before handing your sensitive information over to a company, do some research. The company’s website is a good place to start. Most legitimate lenders include information about the company, leadership licenses and more. You can also use an internet search to see what information is available on other websites. If there’s not much information, it could be a bad sign.

Check out Credible’s partner lenders below. Just insert your desired loan amounts and estimated credit score to get started.

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2. Make sure their address and website is legitimate

You can tell a lot about a company’s legitimacy from its website. First, financial companies like personal loan lenders have to store a lot of sensitive information. If they don’t have a secure website, your personal data may not be safe.

You can also confirm that the address listed on the website is legitimate. If there’s no website listed at all, that’s likely a bad sign. Trustworthy companies usually publish their contact information for the benefit of customers and government agencies.

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3. Read online reviews

Online resources make it easy for consumers to read reviews from other customers before choosing a personal loan lender. Nonprofit organizations like the Better Business Bureau track complaints and rate companies based on how ethically they treat customers.

You can also read Credible’s full reviews of their personal loan lender partners. Credible has personally vetted each lender to make the process easier for you.

4. Use government tools to vet

Lenders must register in each state where they do business. Your state’s financial agency can confirm whether a particular company is registered in your state. You can also vet lenders by looking for complaints or charges from or filed with the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

5. Shop and compare loan rates

When you’re in the market for a personal loan, it’s important to shop around to find the best loan rates and lenders available. By using a trustworthy source like Credible, you can find a list of legitimate lenders, find the best interest rates and use a personal loan calculator to see how much you can expect to pay.

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5 warning signs of a personal loan scam

Don’t become the victim of a personal loan scam. These five warning signs can help you to recognize and avoid fraud.

  1. The lender guarantees loan approval
  2. There’s no credit check
  3. The lender requires an upfront payment
  4. There’s little information about the company
  5. The lender contacts you directly

1. The lender guarantees loan approval

If a lender guarantees approval without an application, it’s probably too good to be true. Lenders generally verify a borrower’s income, debt-to-income ratio and credit score before offering a loan. A promise of guaranteed approval may be a sign of a scam.

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2. There’s no credit check

Running a credit check is a way for financial institutions to manage risk. Without a credit check, they have no way of knowing if they’re lending to a high-risk borrower. And if a lender isn’t worried about risk, there’s probably a reason. It could be a sign either that the transaction is a scam or that you’re being offered a predatory interest rate.

3. The lender requires an upfront payment

Some fraudulent lenders ask for upfront payment but then never deliver the actual loan. If you’re working with a legitimate company, you’ll never have to hand over money until the loan agreement is signed. Some lenders do require origination fees on loans but these aren’t made upfront. Instead, your origination fee should come out of your loan proceeds or be wrapped up in the loan.

4. There’s little information about the company

Most reputable companies share a lot of information about their background, mission and company leadership right on their website. Perhaps more importantly, it should be easy to find information about a company elsewhere. If financial publications and consumer protection agencies aren’t familiar with the company, it could be a sign that it’s not legitimate.

5. The lender contacts you directly

It’s likely a red flag if a company proactively contacts you with a loan offer. While some companies do use mail and email marketing as a way to promote their loan services, these are mass marketing efforts. A direct phone call from a lender is likely a sign of a scam.

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