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Saddled with crushing credit card debt, car payments and a student loan, Alexandra Johnston and Robert Mood were desperate.
It was late 2017 and the Bradford couple was hoping to secure a line of credit so they could consolidate their debts and give the kids a decent Christmas.
Unable to qualify for a loan from her bank, Johnston searched online for private lenders and found a website for what appeared to be a legitimate company calling itself North Clear Credit.
“We’re here to help you get the best loan for you! Never pay high-interest rates again — our rate freeze guarantee means we offer the most competitive rates on the market,” the website proclaimed.
Everything about it — the variety of loans offered, the glowing testimonials, the company description — seemed professional. In fact, a customer who later reported North Clear Credit to police says an officer told her the website looked legitimate.
For Johnston and Mood, the terms were appealing. The money could be paid back monthly over five years at an interest rate substantially lower than what they would be charged elsewhere.
Johnston completed an online application and was approved for a $20,000 loan.
“Nothing seemed off to me,” said Johnston, 25. “I thought it looked real.”
So did at least three others in Ontario and the Northwest Territories who were impressed by the website of the “nationwide lending specialists.”
North Clear Credit turned out to be anything but.
Within a few days, Johnston and Mood had lost $3,500, and two North Clear Credit “representatives” with whom Johnston had been corresponding had disappeared.
“The impact this had was just terrible, especially at that time of year,” said Mood, 34, who has a 3-year-old daughter with Johnston and three other children from previous relationships. “I had to go to a hamper drive to get Christmas presents for my kids. I’ve never had to do that.”
The Star could find neither employees nor offices for North Clear Credit.
According to its website, which was active as of late last week but now appears to have been taken down, the company is headquartered in Dorval, Quebec. The Star went to the address — a low-rise glass-fronted building in an industrial area of Montreal Island — but found no trace of the company. Would-be borrowers were provided with a Montreal-area phone number that leads to a computerized voicemail. None of the Star’s calls or emails were returned.
Read the full story over at the Toronto Star.