Action Line: Online payday loan leads to ID theft

A reader: I took out a payday loan online last year. I had some really big unexpected medical bills and I needed money fast to take care of them. Now I have received calls from someone else saying I still owe the debt and I have had money taken from my bank account without my permission. I have already repaid the debt. I have receipts to prove it. What can I do?

Action Line: The first thing you need to do is CLOSE THAT ACCOUNT. Find out from your bank exactly who is accessing your account. If you did not give access, you need to report it to your bank, the police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may well be a victim of ID theft. This can happen when scammers act as data brokers to gain access to financial information about consumers like you from other companies. This can happen to anyone; no one is immune from ID theft.

Businesses often hire data brokers to store data for them. There are legitimate data brokers that provide bulk storage of data providing security for the government and businesses. If you shop online, if you have an account on any social media platform, if you have any record anywhere of any financial transaction, if you have a credit history, you could be at risk.

The more information that is out there about you, the easier it is for scammers to put your information together to steal your identity. So before you give anyone any personal information, make sure that you not only know whom you are dealing with but ask them about their data storage practices. Most often the data is sold without the customer’s knowledge.

In the case of the payday loan, take a good hard look at the application before you complete it. Does the application disclose what happens to your info? Since your info has been breached, go back to the payday loan company to see if they are aware of a breach.

When data is breached, consumers can have money taken from accounts, fraudulent charges on credit card accounts and complete ID theft. So what can you do?

▪ DON’T give out your Social Security number, your bank card or credit card info to anyone you don’t normally do business with.

▪ Find out about the company if they are new to you.

▪ Be careful what you respond to both on and offline.

▪ Keep a close eye on your financial information, monitor your accounts regularly to make sure there is no unusual activity.

▪ Whenever you make a transaction, make sure you read the fine print. Do you understand it? If not, don’t provide info or signatures.

▪ Don’t respond to unsolicited offers. You might receive an email, a letter in the mail or even post on a social media platform. If you didn’t ask for it, then don’t respond until you check it out.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or