Consumer Alert Issued: “BellBrook Finance Center” Is Loan Scam, Not Located in Belfast, Maine

 Thousands Taken from Family of Active-Duty, Deployed Service Member;

Calls Received from New York, Virginia, Oregon; Others Victims Possible

GARDINER – Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection issued an alert Thursday to warn consumers about the prevalence of ‘advance fee’ consumer loan scams, and the frequency with which fraudulent companies claim to be located in Maine.  The most recent example involves “BellBrook Finance Center,” which purports to be located in Belfast.

BellBrook Finance Center solicited the family of a deployed active-duty service member from Virginia.  The company promised a $5,000 loan in exchange for advance payments via electronic payment, including $2,000 for insurance, $895 for a lenders’ fee, and $887.50 for five up-front monthly payments.  The money was paid through a money card company called Green Dot.  The loan was being sought to fund a trip for the service member’s wife to visit her deployed husband overseas.

“The prevalence of advance fee loan schemes is concerning,” said David Leach, Principal Examiner with the Bureau.  “BellBrook Finance Center is not licensed in Maine as a consumer lender, nor listed with corporate filings in the Secretary of State’s Office.”  Law enforcement officials in Belfast told Leach that no such company is located there, and that they have received other complaints about this scam.  A call to the company resulted in a “hang up” by an employee who refused to cooperate with the investigation.

“This case is among the most disturbing we’ve investigated in recent years, given the family’s circumstances, the planned use of the loan, and the excessive amount of up-front fees,” Leach added.  “BellBrook Finance Center preyed on a military family who could ill-afford to lose thousands of dollars.”

When consumers follow-through with transactions of this kind from bogus lenders, they’re often directed to transmit funds to an alternative location—often thousands of miles from the phony company address.   Once the advance fee is sent to the perpetrators, there is little chance of recovering those funds.

The Bureau notes that Maine has many reputable licensed lenders, and advises consumers to never wire or mail certified funds to unknown lenders.  The Bureau recommends that consumers deal only with known, licensed lenders, and encourages consumers to call the Bureau toll-free at 1-800-332-8529 to verify the status of lenders or check the Bureau’s licensed supervised lenders at www.credit.maine.gov.

The Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection is part of Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.   The Bureau licenses lenders, creditors and collectors; conducts periodic examinations of creditors to determine compliance with state laws; and responds to consumer complaints and inquiries.

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