Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection issued a warning today to alert consumers and businesses about the increasing prevalence of “advance fee” loan scams, and the frequency with which the companies falsely claimed to be located in Maine.

The most recent examples involve “Hempford Finance Center” and “Metta Capital Funding,” both purporting to be based in Portland, the bureau said.  

The Bureau’s investigation of Hempford Finance Center, which may also be operating as Hempford Funding Center, found that it sought upfront payments before a loan would be granted. In one case, a  consumer applied online with Hempford for a $5,000 loan. The company requested five up-front payments of $177.50 each, totaling $887.50, before the $5,000 loan would be made available. The company 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 another company,  Metta Capital Funding, also revealed potential loan scams, the bureau said. In this case, the company lists a phony business address in Portland, but requires consumers to send money to a location in Canada. 

Hempford and Metta could not be immediately reached for comment.

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

North Lake Equity Group, which claimed to be located on Sanford Road in Wells. Consumers from other states were told to transmit advance fees through the “Money Pack” system at WalMart.
 
— Crestridge Capital, which purported to be located in Belgrade. In one case, a consumer was told to wire $770 in upfront payments for a $5,000 loan.
 
— Bellbrook FInance Center, which claimed to be located in Belfast. The bureau believes this entity then changed its name to Millbrook Finance Center and provided a phony Biddeford address on its website. This company 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.