A Calgary couple who hoped to start off their married life fresh is now in a huge battle to get thousands of dollars back.
Rod and Brita Mackay married in the fall of 2020. Their plan was to get out of their rental home and buy a mobile home, but bad credit and a recent job loss meant a traditional bank loan wasn’t an option — so they turned to the internet.
The couple said after doing some research they eventually reached a deal with company Brafield Lending.
“We were told that we were approved for $40,000,” Brita Mackay told Global News.
The Mackays said the company then asked them for an additional $2,900.
“It was for security funds for the insurance holders of the loan itself,” Mackay added. “Which, given my credit rating, seemed logical.”
The newlyweds didn’t have that kind of money, so they reached out for help.
“We borrowed from anybody and everybody who would help us out.”
The Mackays said Brafield then told them the original lender had pulled out and they could get another loan, but it would cost them another $2,000.
“Our church paid the brokerage and taxes for us so we could get this loan.”
But the Mackays told Global News it didn’t end there. They said Brafield continued to ask for more and more money until finally they had a huge bill — just in fees.
“$11,900 from us,” Rod Mackay said. “That’s including what our church gave us. It became a mess.”
The Mackays said they waited and waited to get the money to purchase the mobile home, but it never came and their calls also went unanswered.
“You call them up — either their mailbox is full or nobody is picking up,” Rod Mackay said. “It just goes straight to voicemail.”
Global News reached out to Brafield Lending multiple times by phone and email.
We did reach one of the representatives listed on the Mackay’s contract but the person who answered the phone denied any knowledge of Brafield Lending.
Global News also visited the Calgary address originally listed on the company’s website as well as the Ottawa address listed on both the contract and the website. Neither location had an office by that name and no one we asked had ever heard of them.
We then reached out to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre. It confirmed it had received three reports involving Brafield Lending, received between Dec. 25 and Dec. 30. The total alleged loss for the three reports is $14,000. One of the reports was from Alberta, one from Quebec and one was anonymous.
The Better Business Bureau serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay also confirmed one complaint had been filed against the lender for $1,450.
“Never pay up front to get a loan,” the BBB’s Shawna-Kay Thomas advised.
“It is not legal to be charged upfront to get a loan.
“It is legal that they can roll in administration fees and so on onto your repayment plan, or they can take that from the amount that they’re lending you, but the moment a company says to you, ‘You have to pay $5,000 or $10,000 in order to get the loan’ — that’s a red flag.”
Avoid advance fee loans
Thomas said other than not giving any money upfront, there are other ways consumers can protect themselves from advance fee loan schemes.
First, it’s important to thoroughly research any lending company, and that includes going to their actual physical address.
“We’ve had situations where businesses are using addresses and when people show up they are not at the location,” she added. “There is a totally different business or no business at all.”
She also warned to really delve into the website, because many websites may look professional and legitimate, but are not.
As for payment, Thomas suggested using a credit card, not an e-transfer or cash, as you may be able to dispute the charges if they’re found to be fraudulent.
But most important, she said be cautious of anyone offering money without a credit check.
“If you’re guaranteed a loan regardless of your credit check — that’s a red flag.”
The Mackays told Global News they wish they had heeded the red flags. Not only are they now out all that money, they said but they’ve also lost their chance at purchasing a home and they may still face repercussions for backing out of that deal.
But their biggest regret they said, was letting down all of those who stepped up to help them.
“That’s what kills me more than anything,” Brita Mackay said. “Our friends and family were helping us out — they lost the money too.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.