Illinois Takes Action Against Legalized Loan Shark Front Group Money Mutual
Fraud, Deception Mark Business Model of Group Promoted by Montel Williams
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Secretary Mario Treto Jr. today in announcing a settlement with three payday loan lead generation companies, including Money Mutual. The settlement is designed to protect Illinois consumers from the deceptive practices used by Money Mutual and others (Partner Weekly, Selling Source) to steer people to exorbitantly priced payday loans.
“Payday loan lenders disproportionately target low-income communities and communities of color, and they make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for people to escape the cycle of poverty,” Raoul said. “I am committed to protecting Illinois residents from payday lenders that operate illegally and trap people into expensive loans with unaffordable interest rates.”
Representatives of the State of Illinois had alleged that the companies violated Illinois’ lending laws by generating payday loan leads without being licensed, and arranging high-cost payday loans for out-of-state payday lenders, many of which were also unlicensed. Raoul and IDFPR alleged the companies violated Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act by falsely representing their loan network as being trustworthy; however, loan terms and conditions did not comply with Illinois law.
According to the lawsuit, Money Mutual was able to attract borrowers to its website in large part by using advertising that featured former television host and celebrity spokesman Montel Williams. The companies allegedly generated customer leads by collecting personal financial information from tens of thousands of Illinois consumers who sought loans on Money Mutual’s website. The companies sold that personal financial information to payday lenders who used it to offer loans to potential borrowers.
The Attorney General’s office also alleged the companies’ misleading advertising deceived borrowers into believing the lenders in the companies’ network were licensed and complying with the law. However, many of the lenders were not licensed or authorized to lend to Illinois consumers, and imposed exorbitant and unlawful interest rates and finance charges.
As a result of the settlement, the companies will be prohibited from operating in Illinois or soliciting Illinois consumers.
Consumers in other states should be aware that companies like Money Mutual often collect their name and identifying information in order to direct them to out-of-state, often unlicensed predatory payday lenders. These lenders charge outrageous interest rates — sometimes higher than 400% — and often profit from creating a cycle of reborrowing sometimes referred to as debt trap lending.
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