Experts say email loan offers could be phishing scam that costs you cash

BALTIMORE - Who couldn't use more cash at the holidays? We all do and scammers know it.  That's why they're luring you in with promises of pre-approved loans.

You stalk big deals while holiday shopping, but even the best offers come with a price.  And at this time of year when you're scraping to pay the bills, experts say you're at risk for scams.  Angie Barnett, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland, says, "They're targeting us at a time when we're very vulnerable.  We need more cash."

Barnett says people are being targeted specifically with bogus "holiday loan" offers that come into your email.  They claim you are pre-approved to get as much as $1,000.  Barnett admits it's tempting, "They're appealing to people at a time when we're shopping and not always smart.  We're more reacting to emotion."

In this situation, a quick reaction to try and grab this money offer could actually cost you.  Barnett explains you'll be asked to follow links through the email and hand over your personal information.  But there's a big problem.  Barnett says the website you're sent to isn't secure so you could be giving sensitive information unsafely, which puts you at risk for identity theft.

But that's only one problem scenario from this offer.  Barnett says it's likely the schemers will tell you that you won't qualify unless you put down collateral.  They'll ask you to wire cash, which Barnett indicates is not only a red flag, but also illegal.  She says you shouldn't have to pay an upfront fee for a loan, "Those are all warning signs that this is a scam.  You'll never get your $1000 loan."

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