Consumer Alerts


April 5, 2011
Banking Department Warns Consumers about Email ‘Phishing’ Scams After Security Breaches at Two Companies

Harrisburg – The Department of Banking today warned Pennsylvania consumers to guard against possible financial scams involving their email accounts following recent security breaches at Texas and Massachusetts companies that provide Internet security services.

Scammers could use email addresses and other information recently stolen from Epsilon and RSA Security to try to trick consumers into providing personal information, including bank account or credit card information. These “spoof” emails could appear to be from trusted sources and constitute an identity theft scam known as “phishing.”

Emails from legitimate financial institutions and businesses will not ask for passwords, card numbers or other sensitive information.

Perpetrators of phishing scams can max-out a victim’s credit cards, empty their bank accounts or take out loans in their name. An identity thief can also establish new accounts with banks, credit card companies, utilities and other businesses.

Consumers who believe they have been targeted by phishing or other ID-theft scams should immediately contact the financial institutions or businesses from which the suspicious information appears to have come and also notify local police.

Consumers with questions about possible phishing scams can call the Pennsylvania Department of Banking toll-free at 1-800-PA-BANKS (1-800-722-2657).

The Department of Banking urges consumers to “do their homework” before entering into business with any financial company. Consumers can learn about companies licensed or chartered by the Department of Banking at www.banking.state.pa.us and 1-800-PA-BANKS.


1/19/10
Counterfeit Cashier’s Checks
The Dime Bank, Honesdale, reports that counterfeit cashier’s checks bearing its name are in circulation.

The counterfeit items use the same routing number assigned to The Dime Bank and are similar to authentic cashier's checks.

The fake checks also include a security feature statement embedded within a darkened top border and along the bottom border between two padlocks.

Authentic checks have a padlock icon and security statement embedded within the right border.

Anyone with information or questions should contact The Dime Bank.


11/17/09
Cedarwood Equity Group
The Department of Banking is alerting the public about a company that appears to be a loan scam allegedly being perpetrated on the Internet under the name Cedarwood Equity Group

The company solicits personal and home loans. They ask for personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers, which could be used to commit identity fraud and drain victim’s accounts.  The company also asks for money upfront to process the loan.

Cedarwood Equity Group represents itself as a Philadelphia-based lender. However, there is no such company located at the listed address or licensed by the Department of Banking.


11/2/09
Counterfeit Checks
Citizens & Northern Bank in Wellsboro reports that counterfeit checks bearing its name are in circulation. 

The counterfeit items display the routing number 031308302, which is assigned to Citizens & Northern Bank. The items have an ornate top border and display the bank's street address below its name in the top-left corner. The word "Dollars" appears on the right side of the items and a "FROM" line appears in the lower-right corner. 

Authentic checks have a security feature statement embedded within a darkened top border and display the bank's logo in the top-left corner. The word "AMOUNT" appears on the right side of the checks.


10/26/09
Email Claiming to Be From the FDIC
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous reports of a fraudulent e-mail that has the appearance of being sent by the FDIC.

The subject line of the e-mail states: “check your Bank Deposit Insurance Coverage.” The e-mail tells recipients that, "You have received this message because you are a holder of a FDIC-insured bank account. Recently FDIC has officially named the bank you have opened your account with as a failed bank, thus, taking control of its assets.”

The e-mail then asks recipients to “visit the official FDIC website and perform the following steps to check your Deposit Insurance Coverage” (a fraudulent link is provided). It then instructs recipients to “download and open your personal FDIC Insurance File to check your Deposit Insurance Coverage.”

This e-mail and associated Web site are fraudulent. Recipients should consider the intent of this e-mail as an attempt to collect personal or confidential information, some of which may be used to gain unauthorized access to on-line banking services or to commit identity theft.

The FDIC does not issue unsolicited e-mails to consumers. Financial institutions and consumers should NOT follow the link in the fraudulent e-mail.



10/15/09
Uni-Lending Group and Silvergate Financial Services
The Department of Banking is warning consumers about two apparent Internet loan scams: Uni-Lending Group, online at www.uni-lending.com and Silvergate Financial Services, online at www.silvergatefinancial.com.

Both companies offer loans through their Web sites and ask for money in advance to process them. They also collect personal financial information such as Social Security and bank account numbers, which could be used to commit identity fraud.

Uni-Lending Group and Silvergate Financial Services claim to be lenders based in Philadelphia, but neither is located there or licensed by the Department of Banking.

If you are a victim to these or any other advance fee loan scams, please notify the Department of Banking at 1-800-PA-BANKS (within PA) or 717-787-1854.

Advance fee scams trick victims into paying large “upfront” fees – typically via wire transfer - for bogus loans or credit cards. They frequently target consumers with poor credit histories by promising easy or “guaranteed” loan approval.  

The Department of Banking urges consumers to “do their homework” before doing business with any financial company, including checking for complaints with the Office of Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau chapter nearest to the company. Consumers can also find information on companies licensed or chartered by the Department of Banking at www.banking.state.pa.us and 1-800-PA-BANKS.



08/26/09
Fraudulent Government Solicitations
The Federal Reserve Board is warning consumers about fraudulent solicitations that appear to be made with the approval or involvement of the Federal Reserve, Federal Reserve officials, or other U.S. government officials. These solicitations promise bogus financial services or large sums of money in exchange for either payment or personal information that can then be used to access a consumer's bank account.

The Federal Reserve is advising consumers that it has no involvement in these solicitations.  Consumers are strongly urged to verify the legitimacy of potential service providers before entering into a business transaction. Individuals seeking help with repairing their credit history, avoiding home mortgage foreclosure, finding mortgage refinance options, or managing their credit card debt should do business only with reputable service providers. Information related to these issues may be found on the Federal Reserve Board's website at:
http://www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo.

Individuals who have or suspect they have been a victim of a scam should contact local law enforcement agencies. Information related to how to identify a fraud or scam may be found on the Federal Reserve Board's Consumer Help Center website at:
http://www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov.



04/09/09
First Star Lending Services and First Star Credit Union
The Department of Banking is warning the public about an apparent advance fee loan scam using the names “First Star Lending Services” and “First Star Credit Union” at
www.firststarlendingservices.com.

The department was recently contacted by two consumers who say they applied to the company for loans ranging from $7,000 to $10,000.  Both say they were asked to pay several hundred dollars in upfront fees in order to receive their loans.  Fortunately, they grew suspicious and did not send any money. 

The companies claim to be located at 1800 Loucks Road, Suite 850, York, PA.  However, no such address exists at that location.  Although First Star Lending Services claims to offer first and second mortgages, consumer loans and other financial products, it is not licensed by the Department of Banking.  Furthermore, there is no First Star Credit Union chartered by either the department or the National Credit Union Administration.   

If you are a victim of First Star Lending Services, First Star Credit Union or any other advance fee loan scam, please notify the Department of Banking at 1-800-PA-BANKS (within PA) or 717-787-1854. 

The Department of Banking urges consumers to “do their homework” before doing business with any financial company, including checking for complaints with the Office of Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau chapter nearest to the company.  Consumers can also find information on companies licensed or chartered by the Department of Banking at
www.banking.state.pa.us and 1-800-PA-BANKS.



Gobern Group
The Department of Banking is alerting the public about Gobern Group, a company that appears to be a front for a Canadian advance fee loan scam. The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General and other law enforcement agencies have received complaints regarding Gobern, which does business on the Internet at
www.goberngroup.com.

Alleged victims say they were instructed to wire amounts ranging from $800 to $3,200 to Canada as a security deposit for loans they never received.

The Gobern Group represents itself as a Philadelphia-based lender. However, there is no such company located there or licensed by the Department of Banking.

If you are a victim of the Gobern Group or any other advance fee loan scam, please notify the Department of Banking at 1-800-PA-BANKS (within PA) or 717-787-1854. In addition, victims should also submit a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at
www.ic3.gov and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre (Phone Busters) at 1-888-495-8501.

      Know the Warning Signs

     •   Avoid any credit offer that requires an up-front payment.

     •   If you are asked to pay fees via a wire transfer, especially to someone in another
         country, be very suspicious. Such payments are extremely difficult to recover or  
         trace once they are made. 

     •   Know who you are dealing with. If you haven't heard of the person or company that you intend
         to borrow from, learn more about them by contacting the Office of Attorney General or the Better 
         Business Bureau nearest to the company to see if there are any complaints. Also verify if the
         company is licensed do business in the state by calling the Department of Banking at
         1-800-PA-BANKS or by using the Financial Institutions Search at www.banking.state.pa.us.



Orchard Credit and Financial Solutions
The Department of Banking and the Better Business Bureau of Pittsburgh are warning consumers about Orchard Credit and Financial Solutions, a company that appears to be a front for a Canadian advance fee loan scam.

Alleged victims say they paid approximately $800 each to the company for loans they never received. The money, which they were instructed to wire to Canada, was to be refunded after several months of on-time loan payments.

Orchard Credit and Financial Solutions represents itself as a lender based in Pittsburgh. However, there is no such company located there or licensed by the Department of Banking. In addition, Orchard’s toll-free number has been linked to at least one other bogus loan company.



American Financial Incorporated

The Department of Banking is alerting the public about an apparent advance fee loan scam allegedly being perpetrated on the Internet under the name American Financial Incorporated at
www.youramericanfinancial.com.
 
Victims who inquired about loans from the company were told they had to wire cash to Canada in order to receive funds.  Those who did send money say they never got their loans or heard from the company again. 
 
Although American Financial Incorporated claims on its website to be a successful community bank based in Philadelphia with over $1.5 billion in assets and offices in major cities around the globe, there is in fact no bank by that name in the state of Pennsylvania.
 
The Department of Banking urges consumers to avoid any credit offer that requires an upfront payment.  Although a lender may charge fees for accepting your application, checking your credit report and other items, they are generally subtracted from the loan amount after it’s approved.  Consumers should also be wary any time they are asked to pay fees via a wire transfer, especially to another country. 
 
If you think you've been a victim of an advance fee loan scam, please notify the Department of Banking at 1-800-PA-BANKS (within PA) or 717-787-1854.  In addition, victims should also submit a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at
www.ic3.gov and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre (Phone Busters) at 1-888-495-8501.



Exchange Finance Group and Lincoln Fidelity Group
It has come to the attention of the Department of Banking that the following companies may be Canadian-based advance fee loan scams: 

Exchange Finance Group
602 Chestnut Hill Avenue
Springfield, PA  19118
www.exchangefinancegroup.com

and

Lincoln Fidelity Group
429 Forbes Avenue, 7th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA  15219
www.lincolnfidelity.com
1-800-622-3509

Victims of these companies were instructed to wire money to individuals in Canada for insurance, security deposit or downpayment for loans they never received.  Individuals who sent money lost between $1,800 and $2,800.  Both companies also collected personal information through loan applications which could be used to commit identity theft. 

Neither Exchange Finance Group nor Lincoln Fidelity Group is licensed by the Department of Banking.  Further, neither company has offices at the addresses they provide. 

The Department of Banking urges consumers to research any company they are thinking about doing business with.  Prospective borrowers should be suspicious of any loan that requires an upfront payment, especially via wire transfer to another country.  While legitimate lenders may charge for application, credit reports and other fees, those costs are generally subtracted from the loan amount after it's approved. 

Victims of advance fee scams should notify the Department of Banking at 1-800-PA-BANKS (within PA) or 717-787-1854 (outside PA) and the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.



Detail Financial, Capital Alliance Group and First Sun Capital
The Department of Banking has received complaints from consumers in Pennsylvania and other states about three companies: Detail Financial, Capital Alliance Group and First Sun Capital.  Based upon the information consumers have provided, the Department believes that these businesses may be advance fee scams in which borrowers are persuaded to provide large upfront fees for loans that do not exist.    

Detail Financial claims to be a Philadelphia-based company licensed to originate mortgage and auto loans in Pennsylvania.  Victims who were approved for loans from Detail Financial say they were instructed to wire several thousand dollars via Western Union to Canada.  The money, they were told, was for down payments or insurance on their loans.  None of the victims who have contacted the Department have received their loans.  Further, Detail Financial is not licensed to do business in Pennsylvania. 

Capital Alliance Group claims to be officed in Pittsburgh.  Victims of this company were told to wire funds to Canada as down payment or insurance on their loans.  The typical amount requested ranged from $2,000 to $3,000.  This apparent scam business also operates under the name Capital Alliance.

First Sun Capital represents itself as a loan company based in Philadelphia.  Customers who applied for loans say they were instructed to wire money, usually $500 to $1,000, to a location in Georgia.  Most victims say they learned of the company through Internet classified ads. 

The Department of Banking urges consumers to research any company they are thinking about doing business with.  Prospective borrowers should be suspicious of any loan that requires an upfront payment, especially via wire transfer to another country.  While legitimate lenders may charge for application, credit reports and other fees, those costs are generally subtracted from the loan amount after it's approved. 

Victims of advance fee scams should notify the Department of Banking at 1-800-PA-BANKS (within PA) or 717-787-1854 (outside PA) and the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.



The Spherion Group
The Department of Banking has received numerous inquiries and complaints from consumers regarding The Spherion Group, which represents itself on the Internet as a loan company based in Pittsburgh.  Customers who applied for loans from Spherion say they were instructed to wire money - in some cases up to $2,250 - to an address in Canada as "insurance" on the loan.  The customers then received a follow-up call from the company requesting another wire transfer.  Despite wiring funds to Spherion, the consumers say they never received their loans. 

The Spherion Group is not licensed by the Department to solicit or make loans in Pennsylvania.  The company claims on its website to be located in Pittsburgh, however the Department has determined that the address listed does not exist. 

It appears that this entity is a Canadian advance fee loan scam outfit.  This is a relatively common scam in which consumers are duped into paying up-front fees for loans the scam artist has no intention of providing.  The Department of Banking recommends that consumers be wary of any loan offer that requires a fee be paid in advance.  Although legitimate lenders may charge application, appraisal, or credit report fees, those fees are generally subtracted from the amount borrowed after the loan is approved. 

If you think you've been a victim of an advance fee loan scam, please notify the Department of Banking at 1-800-PA-BANKS (within PA) or 717-787-1854.  In addition, victims should also submit a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at
www.ic3.gov and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre (Phone Busters) at 1-888-495-8501.



Cashier's Check Scam

The Department of Banking says consumers who sell items through online auctions or classified ads should be on the lookout for scam artists who pay with counterfeit cashier's checks.  It's also providing tips to help protect yourself when engaging in a large transaction with a buyer you don't know or who lives far away. 

   •  Secretary's Letter Regarding Fraudulent Cashier's Checks
   •  News Release
 


International Lottery Scam
Somerset Trust Company has recently been the target of an international lottery scam. Counterfeit Somerset Trust Company Treasurer's Checks are part of the scam that includes the following letter from Crystal Lotto Prize, Inc.  Use caution on any notification claiming that you've won something, especially if you must pay a fee to receive your winnings.  More information is available from Somerset Trust Company.



Silvercrest Loans

The Department of Banking has received complaints against a company using the name Silvercrest Loans, an unlicensed entity claiming to be based in Pennsylvania that solicits customers through the Internet. 

After being approved for loans, consumers allege that the company instructed them to wire funds as "advance payment" to locations in Canada.  The Department is unaware of any consumer who has received a loan from Silvercrest.

Silvercrest Loans is not licensed by the Department to solicit or make loans in Pennsylvania.  The company claims on its website to be located in Philadelphia.  The Department has determined that the address listed does not exist.



Peach State Financial Services
The Department of Banking has learned of an apparent case of corporate identity theft by a company advertising in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. 

According to the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, a company identifying itself as Peach State Financial Services (two words) is representing itself as Peachstate Financial Services, a residential mortgage company licensed in Georgia.  In addition, it says Peach State uses an address once held by the licensed company. 

Peach State Financial Services is an unlicensed entity in Georgia and Pennsylvania.  Georgia banking officials say the company asked consumers to provide an "insurance" deposit in order to obtain a loan.  The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance is unaware of any consumer who has received a loan from Peach State. 




Faire Finance
A company called Faire Finance, an unlicensed entity in Pennsylvania, represents itself as being based in Pittsburgh. The company advertises that it will make loans to consumers - for a price.

Consumers are asked to provide a bank account number and bank routing number for Faire Finance to receive $500 from the consumer, supposedly the cost of obtaining the loan.

Faire Finance is not licensed by the Department of Banking to solicit or make loans to consumers. The Department is aware of consumers who have complained that they have sent money to Faire Finance, but received nothing back.



Apple One Financial
A company called Apple One Financial, an unlicensed entity in Pennsylvania, has been representing itself as being based in Pittsburgh. Apple One Financial uses local newspapers from around the country to get consumers to obtain a loan. Consumers are directed to send money by Western Union to an address in Atlanta, Georgia.

Upon investigation, the Department of Banking has not been able to substantiate that Apple One Financial has any physical presence in Pennsylvania. Apple One Financial is not licensed by the Department to solicit or make loans to consumers. The Department is not aware of any consumer who has obtained a loan from Apple One, even though the Department has received reports of consumers who have sent money to Apple One.