International loan scam used fake base in Sudbury
By Kathy Uek
April 8th, 2008
SUDBURY — The FBI, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Massachusetts attorney general's office and the Better Business Bureau are investigating a suspected scam believed to be operating out of Canada by a company with a business address listed in Sudbury.
About 10 people from across the country called the Sudbury Police Department recently to register complaints about Greenpark Lending of 142 North Road, saying they were tricked into sending hundreds or thousands of dollars to the bogus lender.
"The company is fictitious,'' said Sudbury Police Lt. Scott Nix.
"One hundred and forty-two North Road is a big office complex, part of which houses the State Police Crime Lab, Greystone Mortgage and a day care center,'' he said.
Hoping to obtain a loan after being turned away from other financial institutions, borrowers were lured by offers of immediate loan approval on Greenpark Lending's Web site.
But before Greenpark provided the loan, the company asked for collateral in advance. Borrowers thought they were wiring money to Greenpark in Sudbury, but the money went elsewhere.
"When you send money by Western Union or MoneyGram, they give you a password or code number. You then call the fictitious company and confirm that money was sent on such and such a date along with the password or code number,'' said Cpl. Louis Robertson at Phone Busters, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Center headed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police and the Competition Bureau - similar to the Federal
Trade Commission in the United States (www.phonebusters.com
"So the bad guys have confirmation that you sent the money and also the code or password. They can pick up that money anywhere in the world. That's why it's kind of hard to really investigate them. You think you are doing business in Sudbury, but the money is being picked up elsewhere. And the money does not stay with the bad guys, it goes elsewhere to get laundered,'' Robertson said.
"Desperate people get turned down by every bank and financial institution and go online and find a company, but it's fictitious,'' he said. "The company does not exist, but the client doesn't know that until it's too late. That's how it works.''
Trisha Smith in the Natick office of the Better Business Bureau said scammers sometimes "place ads in newspapers, free grocery papers, fliers, on late night news and on the Internet - anywhere they can possibility put an ad.''
Robertson reported three unsuspecting people filed complaints in the last 11 days against Greenpark Lending. A borrower in Burnsville, Minn., got taken for $785. He was approved for a $5,000 loan at 8.5 percent, payable in 36 payments of $157.50. "He lost $785 (in collateral) plus MoneyGram fees,'' said Robertson.
A resident of Dunkirk, N.Y., lost $959.15 after he was approved for a $6,000 loan, and a Cerritos, Calif., resident lost $1,927.50, Robertson said.
"That's a small amount,'' said Robertson. "Unfortunately the suspects faxed personal information. Not only will they never see their money, their loan may be a candidate for stolen identity theft. It's as simple as that.
"Conservatively, we are talking about a $3 billion enterprise for different types of scams (ranging) from the old Nigerian scam to the Internet scam involving five countries: the UK, Netherlands, United States, Canada and Spain,'' Robertson said.
Greenpark made the scam difficult to resist with its glossy Web site and official bank documents. But that image on the Web is not their own.
"They high jacked their image and real loan pages from genuine businesses,'' said Robertson. "Greenpark has a fictitious Sudbury address, but it could be anywhere in the world. There is no way to check their real addresses. Scammers don't care if you are a senior citizen or a teenager. They will suck money out of you.''
Previously a narcotics investigator, Robertson said that work was easier.
"At least that could be contained or concentrated within a small community of drug people. But mass-marketing fraud is open to everybody,'' he said.
Robertson advised: be cautious. "If every financial institution turned you down, they did it for good reason.''
He recommended people use the Web to research companies.
"Type the name of the company (in Google) and there is a chance that someone in Canada and the U.S. had a bad experience and put it on the Web site.''
Although the FBI is involved in the investigation, the bureau cannot comment on the scam because the information is not public record, said spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz.
Sudbury Police are referring callers to Attorney General Martha Coakley's office.
"The attorney general's office is acting as a clearinghouse for numerous victims across the country,'' said Lt. Nix. "We have no jurisdiction. If a victim comes forward in Sudbury, it may be part of the equation.''
If scammers believe the police are on to them, they change Web sites and phone numbers and begin under a different name.
"It's a perfect crime,'' he said. "Dumb people will take a gun and rob a bank. Smart people get a Web site and ask people to send money. They used to say, 'If it's too good to be true, it probably is.' Now they say, 'If it's too good to be true, it's probably a scam.' ''