Valley businessman out $2,000 in online loan offer
A Cowichan Valley small business owner is warning others after losing $2,000 in an online loan application.
Jeran Mattu, 35, who runs Lizard Painting, applied for a loan after a Google search that led him to the website of "Centura Financial Services," whose website indicates it is based out of New York.
"I was needing a loan because I'm self-employed,'' he said. "I went to go get a loan for tools and stuff.''
The conventional bank loan was not an option for him so he went looking elsewhere. He Googled "loan companies'' and Centura Financial Services was one of the options that came up.
"They have a form and info to apply for loans,'' said Mattu. "It looks legit. I applied for a $30,000 loan. Two days later I got approved.''
Mattu said he was contacted by a personal representative. A seven-page contract was sent to him by email.
"Everything from top to bottom seemed legit,'' he stressed.
Mattu was asked to provide a B.C. photo ID, a recent paystub and bank account information for direct deposit. He was requested to pay $2,000 to secure the loan.
His money had gone to an investor in Toronto who supposedly represented Centura. Mattu's money had already gone through when he called Centura to check on this fact. And that's when he started to think something might be wrong.
"They said there's a red flag on your file,'' said Mattu. "I felt nervous. They said since you're a new client there's a security deposit for loss of work to secure the loan.
"At this point, I want a refund. I called back and the phone's disconnected.''
An initial News Leader Pictorial website check for the company he contacted, centurafnservices.com, resulted in a “Server Not Found’’ message. The site was back up and running when checked again April 1, then down again this week.
Calls to the number provided by Mattu resulted in a busy signal.
"I got that same noise every time I called,'' noted Mattu. "It's a dead line noise. When I was being scammed, there was an active answering machine every day.''
There was no phone number listed on the website, only fax numbers.
Meanwhile, Scambook.com had a message about the operation. Mattu isn't the only one with complaints.
"Information about Centura Financial Services was first submitted to Scambook on Feb. 20/14,'' read the message. "Since then, the page has accumulated five consumer complaints. On average, users reported $1,912.62 of damages.''
"The only thing I can make positive out of this is to warn people in the community how dangerous it is and how many predators there are online,'' said Mattu.
Mattu filed a complaint with the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP about the incident and found it's been reported as a fraud. He doesn't expect he'll get his money back now.
"The police just phoned me today and said they reached a dead end on tracking down the lenders,'' noted Mattu Wednesday.
"It's scary how easy it is to simply Google and have that form filled out,'' he added.
Now he's out more money while already applying for a loan but hopes to make up for it in other ways.
"Right now, I'm just keeping advertising and keeping my business going,'' he said. "I'm hoping to save up extra and pay back what I've lost. I've lowered my rates to try and get more business.''
Centura Financial Services should not be confused with another firm that will come up on a Google search, Montreal-based Centura Finance. And there are others with similar names.