Vulnerable families have lost money to a scammer impersonating a local loans company.
Police are investigating complaints from loan seekers who have been left out of pocket after applying for personal loans online.
And banker Cobus Ferreira is horrified families have suffered from the misuse of his company’s name.
Loan seekers believed they were dealing with a real company called CTM Loans, which is registered to Ferreira, and paid “insurance premiums” when they were told it was a condition of getting loans.
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They never got their loans, and believe the money they handed over is now lost.
Ferreira, who works for Kiwibank, is praying police catch the man with the Indian-sounding accent using his company’s name to get money from low-income families.
Greytown resident Samantha Blair went to the police after she lost $895 in two payments for “insurance” and “taxes” seeking a loan from CTM Loans, which she found an advert for online.
“I want this guy caught and suffer for what he has done to victims,” she said. “We are all from low income families. We are struggling as it is.”
“It has devastated me mentally. I am going through a bit of a breakdown, but my family has come in to help, and have given me money for Christmas. I have got back on my feet because of my family and friends.”
A second would-be borrower from Tauranga, who asked not to be named, lost $524.
Like Blair, she was sent a supposed loan contract for the $6000 loan she wanted to take her family to a big reunion up North.
Under the scrawled signature at the bottom of the contract were the words: PRINT NAME: Cobus Ferreira.
The signature does not match the real Ferreira’s signature from CTM Loans company documents on the Companies Office register.
The Tauranga victim said she confronted the man with the Indian-sounding accent on the phone- he was calling himself Harrison Hills, she said – and accused him of being a crook.
“He said it was a scam, and I wasn’t going to get my money back,” she said.
Blair also confronted the man on the phone, and recorded the Indian-sounding man’s voice, as evidence, which she has now passed to the police.
In the recording the man promised to have her loan to her the next day. The money was never paid over, she said.
Both women have made statements to the police, and provided documents in evidence, and Nelson-based inspector James Green confirmed he was looking into a complaint, though the investigation may expand as a growing number of victims are coming forward.
But it is a third woman, Natali Cora, who has lost just over $1300, who may hold the key to how the man she spoke to is operating within the banking system with impunity.
After she had paid the “insurance premium”, her account received a $622 deposit, and the man told her to take out in cash and send via Western Union to a “Lalit Sirohi” in India.
By the time she received the $622 she was certain she had been scammed, and so did not send the money, fearing she was being used as a mule to get stolen money overseas.
She believes now the man had convinced another loan seeker to deposit an “insurance premium” in her account.
It was a cash deposit, so she does not even know whose money it is.
All three women also went to Financial Services Complaints (FSCL), which hears complaints against lenders who are members of its scheme.
FSCL’s chief executive Susan Taylor said: “It appears to be a scam, and unfortunately, there isn’t anything we can do.”
“I am concerned that if a warning isn’t put out there, more people could fall victim.”
Taylor contacted Ferreira, the director of CTM Loans, who set the company up to conduct mortgage broking business before he joined Kiwibank as a business banker, and it became quickly clear he was not involved.
“I can confirm it is not me, definitely, definitely, not me,” Ferreira said.
He said the first he heard of that someone was claiming to be from CTM Loans was when he got a call from Nelson police inspector James Green, who is investigating the women’s complaints.
“I’m so frustrated. I can’t believe that somebody would do this,” Ferreira said.
“This is obviously my reputation. I have got business clients. I work hard to show them they can trust me with their financial information.”
Earlier this year police received complaints about a similar loans scam in which an Indian-sounding man claiming to be from Christchurch company CreditC.R.E.W offered loans.
In that case too, victims paid “insurance premiums” but never received the loans they had applied for.
Taylor said only companies which were registered financial services providers could make loans. They also had to be members of a disputes scheme like FSCL.
“Before doing business with any lender or financial adviser, you should always check that your lender or adviser is registered on the Financial Service Providers’ register and a member of an approved dispute resolutions scheme such as Financial Services Complaints,” Taylor said.