CONROE, Texas – The company promises a lifeline to people struggling to make ends meet.
But the KHOU 11 News I-Team discovered not only are those empty promises, the scammers on the other end of the phone are not really who they say they are.
“I thought yeah, great,” recalled Cindy Tyre.
The Conroe woman had gone on-line looking for a loan.
But instead of the $2,000 the Conroe woman was promised, Tyre ended up losing hundreds of dollars.
“I was kicking myself in the tail,” she admitted.
Tyre, fell victim to the man claiming to be from “VA Loans.”
After entering her information on the internet, she received an offer, promising cash with low interest rates.
“It sounded legit on the phone and the paperwork looked legit,” Tyre told the I-Team.
That paperwork featured the words “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs” across the top, and contained what appeared to be a government seal.
The “lender” told Tyre all she had to do was pre-pay $200 to prove she could make the monthly payments.
But Tyre says instead of the money she was promised, all she received were excuses.
“I had something on my credit,” Tyre recalled the man on the phone telling her. “And that I needed to send him some more money.
Tyre paid that money too. Then she made a third payment.
She never received a dime in return.
Neither did Virgil Redd.
“I was supposed to have my money in my account within that hour,” Redd said.
In all, Redd sent “VA Loans” more than $1,400.
“I'm mad at them but, I mean I'm mad at myself,” said Redd shaking his head in disbelief.
The Detroit-area resident hoped to use the $10,000 loan he was promised to help his sister.
“She may have to have her right leg amputated,” explained Redd, “and we were looking at trying to get her out of her apartment complex into a home, one-level.”
But instead of money, Redd said all he received were threats from “VA Loans” when he refused to send the company any more money.
“We are going to file a lawsuit on your name,” said one of the voice messages from “VA Loans” to Redd. “If you’re not going to take the call then you’ll be locked up and your employer and your family member will be punished for that,” said another message.
So how could victims keep falling for this?
It turns out, not only were the scammers using the VA’s name and logo, they were also telling potential borrowers they were dealing with a Houston-based credit union.
The credit union, which says it’s not affiliated with the scam, even had its actual address used on the phony loan documents sent to victims.
“People are obviously being scammed out of their money,” explained Monica Russo with the Better Business Bureau. “They’re being misled about the true identity of this company and their money is basically stolen from them.”
Besides the complaints filed with the BBB, the Federal Trade Commission has received 358 complaints connected to “VA Loans.”
Those complaints range from harassing phone calls, to victims being promised money but given nothing.
So who’s behind the bogus loan documents?
“I believe this scam is based overseas,” said Lt. Andy Colborn from the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s Office in Wisconsin.
When a victim there lost $703 to “VA Loans,” Colborn traced the money.
He found the victim’s payments went to two women.
One lived in New York, the other in Illinois.
“It appears that when she would receive the money, she would be paid a small fee in order to keep her working for the larger organization,” explained Colborn. “And the rest of the money would be forwarded to whoever (the scammer) is.”
Investigators say by using accomplices to funnel the payments, the scammers lessen the chances they’re identified.
Making tracking down the money victims like Tyre could hardly afford to lose, even tougher.
“I'd like to slap one of them and let them know how much they've taken away from me,” said Tyre. “And how bad they've hurt me.”
In a statement to the I-Team, The Department of Veterans Affairs released the following statement:
“The documents obtained by KHOU are not VA issued documents. VA cautions Veterans that it does not make personal loans. In the VA home loan program, Veterans and other beneficiaries select a private lender, and the VA guarantees a portion of the loan. Veterans may contact VA at 877-827-3702 to confirm whether a lender is a participant in the Loan Guaranty program.”
Additionally, the BBB warns customers against paying money upfront to receive a loan.