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TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2007
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Falkville couple lose $4,600 to scam
Fake loan offer leaves husband and wife having to pay back family and unable to purchase new home

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

FALKVILLE — If you're thinking about acquiring a home loan through American General Financial Services by dialing (888) 554-7294, think again.

Better yet, take it from Donnie and Toni Marsh and don't do it. Calling that number cost the Falkville couple the $4,600 they sent to Ontario, Canada, as a down payment, they said.

She said she wired the money by Western Union on a Friday. The next day, when she "just had a bad feeling" about the loan, she phoned the Western Union fraud department in an attempt to stop payment. But it was too late. Someone already had picked it up.

Toni Marsh said the couple's nightmare began when she spotted an ad in The Daily's classified section and decided to check it out.

"We do have many good offers of loans in our newspaper," said David Benoy, The Daily's classified advertising manager. "Our readers need to know they never have to put out money to get a loan."

The ad for the bogus loan ran for two days.

Marsh said she and her husband, a conductor for Norfolk Southern, were trying to get a loan for $114,000.

"I first started talking to a Margaret Taylor and later to a woman who said her name was Nancy Parker. They said they were from New York," Marsh said. "Parker told me I needed to make a 4 percent down payment and send it to a private lender. She told me to send it to Ajax in Ontario."

Marsh said she didn't know what a private lender was or anything about mortgage insurance.

"I researched on the Internet what she had told me. She knew her stuff," Marsh said. "I also called some people. They had heard of it and about AGF, a legitimate company. They thought everything was on the up and up."

Marsh said her father, who sells rental houses in Decatur, told her some companies require "you pay some up front, just to know that you're going to follow through. Mom and Dad were helping us. They took out a personal loan for the $4,600. Now, I've lost that. Now, we can't buy a house. Now, I have to pay back this loan to my parents, and I have nothing to show for it."

Marsh said Parker told her to phone her back with the control number from Western Union, which she would need to pick up the money.

"She said she would then FedEx me a package with the contract and the terms of the loan and other materials I could read over," Marsh said. "She told me I should receive it between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. the next morning. The next day, I called Federal Express to see if I had a package. They said I did not."

Marsh said she did a reverse telephone search and that the telephone number came up registered to a Nancy Parker.

"I did a Google search on the number and the ad came up in an Indiana newspaper," Marsh said. "My big mistake was not making certain they worked for AGF."

Marsh said she asked Western Union who picked up the money and "they told me they would have to give the names to police." She said she has left messages at the Falkville Police Department and the Morgan County Sheriff's Department.

Other cases

Marsh said a representative of AGF in Evansville, Ind., told her that the company "has been trying to track down these people for months. She said the (scam artists) use the same telephone number and the same names. She also told me I was the first person from Alabama to report the scam and that the other reports came from Ohio and Indiana."

Ann Isbell, director of the community mediation center of the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama, said Marsh took the correct steps by contacting the company.

"AGF began its business in January 1920 and in Evansville has been a BBB member since 1985," she said. "They have a satisfactory record. Those people who are duping consumers apparently looked up the information on the company online and came up with a scheme to pose as company employees."

Mary Beth Nalin, trade practice consultant for the BBB in Evansville, said she phoned the legal department at the company to "let them know what's going on."

Meanwhile, Marsh said, she "knows for sure they're still running this scam. I gave the 888 number to my mom, and they called her back (Monday). They said they'd call again Wednesday. We need to know what we need to do. I'm waiting for police."

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