PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Money is tight these days for many people. So an unexpected expense or emergency can be financially devastating. Often getting a loan is one solution, but 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan warns, you better do your homework first.

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Maria Perez thought that obtaining a small loan was the answer to her financial worries. She says, “You have cars that have repairs, you have children that need to go to school, you have bills that you have to pay. This is going to give me a little cushion so that by the holidays things would be o.k.”

Maria applied online for a loan with a company called Acclaro Financial Services in Columbus, Ohio and immediately was approved for $5,000. But there was a catch. She says, “I needed to secure the loan.” Maria first had to pay $728 upfront for insurance. According to Maria, “They make it look really really good what can I say, it’s very convincing.” But after shelling out that insurance money, her loan never materialized. She says, “I was more angry at myself because I let it happen.”

“This is a scam company. They are ripping off consumers. Consumers have lost a great deal of money,” says Joan Coughlin of the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio. According to the BBB 24 people in 15 states paid over twenty one thousand dollars to the company for loans that they never received.

Acclaro Financial Services claimed to operate out of a Columbus Ohio office building. But when we sent a news crew there, the company was no where to be found. “They are not physically located there, they never have been,” says Coughlin, “They target individuals very fast, and they operate these scams for a period of a couple of months and they shut down the business, so they do a lot of damage and then they are gone.”

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Gone with Maria’s money, and any hopes of a loan. Maria says, “You do what you need to do and you think you are doing the right thing for your family, and it turns out to be that your scammed.”

The company that scammed Maria is just one of hundreds that 3 On Your Side hears about each year. Plain and simple, if you’re asked to pay an upfront fee for a loan, whether it’s for so-called insurance or processing, you need to walk away because you’re dealing with a scam artist.

For more information about how these advance fee loan scams work, click the link below:

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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