What’s the latest way scammers are trying to rip you off? Phony payday loans! First of all, legitimate payday loans aren’t a great money move, because they typically come with sky-high-interest rates. But when people are desperate for cash – they’ll apply for crazy loans.

However – what’s even worse – are BOGUS payday loans. Basically criminals are pouncing on people who are desperate for cash and creating bogus payday loan websites, complete with official-looking reviews and fake video testimonials. Just so they can swindle people out of anywhere from $30 on up to thousands of dollars.

Here’s how it works: After you apply online for a loan, a scammer says your loan is ready to be processed – they just need you to pay an application fee or wire money to cover taxes or insurance. And they claim that every cent will be refunded to you. But in reality, they just steal whatever money you pay up front and never give you a loan! And it’s the perfect crime – because the crooks use fake street addresses and anonymous computer IP addresses, so they’re virtually untraceable.

If you’re short on cash and need a payday loan, here’s how to avoid falling for a scam. This comes from the National Consumers League:

  • If you’re asked to pay money to get money, run! Any request for up-front cash is a dead giveaway that something’s fishy.

  • Just because an online payday lender looks legit doesn’t mean it is. Check with the Better Business Bureau, and your state’s corporation commission, to make sure the business is real.

  • Skip the online payday sites altogether and visit a local brick-and-mortar company instead. They’re regulated by the state government. And if you have a problem, you can always tell the police where to start their investigation.