ASIC has received reports of borrowers sending more than $33,000 over wire services after being scammed.
The borrowers were told before a loan can be advanced they must forward money for insurance, tax or other payments to a specified personal account or transfer money to an overseas account using Western Union or similar wire services.
However, after the borrowers make these payments, they never receive the loan.
The scammers, who are believed to be operating from overseas, appear to have hacked the legitimate websites of some small lenders to target consumers.
They have also set up fake websites and internet banner adverts offering fake loans. The fake loan contracts look like legitimate contracts, but are often made in the name of an unregistered business or a company the scammers do not represent.
Borrowers are misled by identifiers belonging to genuine licensees, such as Australian credit licence numbers and company numbers.
ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell warns borrowers should never send any upfront payments before receiving the loan.
“Legitimate lenders who are authorised under the credit laws in Australia will collect upfront costs out of the loan disbursements when the loan is advanced, in accordance with the terms of the loan contract. They never ask you to transfer money to a third party or an overseas account before a loan is drawn down.
“ASIC urges anyone who needs to borrow money to be mindful of these scams. Never deal with anyone you cannot reach through publicly available contact details. Do not respond to any requests to send money before receiving the loan or you risk suffering significant financial loss,” he said.