Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection issued a warning to consumers and businesses Thursday about the increasing number of “advance fee” loan scams, and the frequency with which the operators falsely claim to be in Maine.

The most recent examples are “Hempford Finance Center” and “Metta Capital Funding,” both purporting to be based in Portland, the bureau said. The bureau’s investigation showed that Hempford Finance Center, which may also be operating as Hempford Funding Center, sought up-front payments before granting loans.

In one case, a consumer applied online for a $5,000 loan. Hempford requested five payments of $177.50 each, totaling $887.50, before the $5,000 loan would be made available. It asked for the payments to be wired from a local supermarket or department store.

“Hempford is not a licensed lender in Maine, and is not registered as a corporation authorized to operate in this state,” said David Leach, principal examiner with the bureau. “Additionally, the Portland Police Department confirmed that no business by the name of Hempford Funding or Hempford Finance Center exists at the Brighton Avenue address listed on the company’s loan documentation.”

A review of Metta Capital Funding also revealed potential loan scams, the bureau said. The company lists a false business address in Portland and requires consumers to send money to a location in Canada.

Hempford and Metta could not be reached for comment.

The Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection indicated that advance-fee loan scams appear to be on the rise, with an increasing number of fraudulent lenders claiming to be based in Maine. Other recent investigations by the bureau involve entities called:

North Lake Equity Group, which claimed to be on Sanford Road in Wells. Consumers from other states were told to send advance fees through the “Money Pack” system at Walmart.

Crestridge Capital, which purported to be in Belgrade. One consumer was told to wire $770 in up-front payments for a $5,000 loan.

Bellbrook Finance Center, which claimed to be in Belfast. The bureau believes the entity changed its name to Millbrook Finance Center and provided a phony Biddeford address on its website.

It promised loans of $5,000 to $10,000 with about $1,000 in up-front money requested in the form of a wire service such as MoneyGram, Western Union or GreenDot.

Ancaster Solutions, which purported to be based on Shoal Cove Road in West Bath.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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