When you apply for a loan online, you want to know you’re in safe hands. Maybe you’ve never made an application with a loan company before and don’t know who to turn to, or who to trust. In our digital world so much is accessible at the press of a button, but this has unfortunately opened the door to a variety of online scammers.
We’ve put together a few things to look out for when you search for a loan company to make sure you stay safe online.
Check the FCA register
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the financial regulatory body in the UK, and all companies that offer financial services need to be registered with them. You can search the FCA register and easily view the credentials of any legitimate company. This is a really quick and easy way to make sure you’re dealing with an official loan site.
If you can’t find a company listed on the FCA’s register, the chances are it’s not legitimate and should be avoided. Usefully, the FCA also has a list of unauthorised firms or persons. If you search the register for one of the unauthorised parties, it’ll appear with a comment letting you know.
Can you contact the company easily?
If you’re feeling unsure of whether you can trust a company, ask yourself ‘can you contact them easily?’. Legitimate companies have physical addresses, whether that’s a branch or a head office, and a dedicated customer service team with phone numbers, email addresses and messaging platforms. Real companies have real people working for them – fake ones are much less likely to.
Take us as an example. Our Oakam customer service team is reliable and easy to reach. The Oakam app also gives users direct access to their loan details and account at any time. This is just one of the ways in which our customers have peace of mind that we’re an authorised direct lender, looking to help them as best we can.
If you’re unable to get hold of a loan company or its staff in any capacity, or trace it to a physical address, the chances are they don’t really exist, and are not trustworthy.
Read the company’s independent reviews
You can search for almost any company on review sites such as Trustpilot and read their customer reviews. Every company, real or not, is going to get some bad reviews. However, it’s the overall quality and quantity of the reviews, and the spread of good vs bad that’s important. With the internet allowing anyone to voice an opinion, it’s a lot harder for scam companies to hide.
We’re not saying that you should pick the worst reviews from a company and make your judgement on those alone, but it is a good idea to look at the company’s overall result.
For example, if a company has 10,000 reviews, 90% of which are four or five stars out of five, the chances are they legitimate and trying to provide good customer service. However, if 90% of a company’s reviews are one or two stars, that should be a red flag!
While what’s written online shouldn’t always be considered as fact, it’s a useful indicator of a company’s legitimacy.
Go with your gut
Your gut feelings are important, and if you have a nagging feeling that something doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance this feeling is accurate. Maybe you’ve spotted red flag after red flag, you’ve read a few too many bad reviews, or you’ve felt pressured by a company’s staff.
Make sure you listen to your gut, as it’s probably trying to steer you clear of making a mistake. The worst-case scenario is that you end up going with a different company that you do feel comfortable with.
It can be hard sifting through loan companies online and to feel confident that you’ve made the right decision. Our tips here only scratch the surface of ways to stay vigilant and spot digital loan scams, but they’re a great place to start. If you want to read more about the various types of banking scams, the Money Advice Service has a really useful article to help you navigate the world of online lenders.
Having a bad credit history is not the same as being in financial difficulty. If you think you are in financial difficulty or are finding it difficult to pay your bills on time you should seek an alternative solution. To get debt advice information, we advise seeking independent advice from an impartial service like Citizens Advice or a qualified Financial Advisor.