Posted by: Kristen Tyagi
The Hill website
By Lisa McGreevy
For millions of American families, the holiday season can be a stressful time. Even the most prudent savers can find themselves needing a little extra cash to complete their holiday list. This season, many Americans will turn to the Internet for a short-term loan.
Consumers are increasing choosing online lenders for the convenience offered by the Internet. Gone are the days of having to go the bank and waiting days for approval. By working with an online lender, borrowers can be approved quickly, all from the convenience and security of their home.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2011, 11 percent of U.S. adults, or an estimated 25.6 million people, had paid for fraudulent products and services they found via the Internet. While this number is related to the Internet as a whole, consumers interested in obtaining an online loan must be vigilant against fraud.
But how do consumers know they are working with a lender they can trust?
The Online Lenders Alliance (OLA) is doing its part to help educate consumers on the importance of doing business with a trusted lender. OLA is committed to identifying and stopping any illegal and fraudulent activity that threatens our customers.
OLA has launched an education effort aimed at informing consumers about the importance of looking for the OLA seal when choosing an online lender. The effort will include direct outreach to consumers, digital advertising and conversations with consumer protection groups.
OLA member companies prominently display the OLA seal on their websites, informing consumers of their commitment to combating fraud in the industry. The OLA seal can only be displayed by OLA members who are required to comply with a 50-page set of best practices. When clicked, the seal is designed to redirect visitors to the OLA website, where they can read more about our commitment to consumers, obtain important information such as consumer resources and a copy of the OLA Best Practices.
Our members take their pledge to consumers very seriously. In fact, our members have funded a mystery shopper to ensure that all companies, not just OLA members, are treating customers appropriately. All instances of fraud will be reported to the appropriate regulatory and enforcement agencies. OLA will also issue cease and desist letters to any company that violates the OLA Best Practices. OLA members and consumers alike are asked to police and report to OLA any websites they suspect are incorrectly displaying the OLA seal, or engaging in fraudulent behavior.
This new consumer education initiative is an extension of OLA’s commitment to combating fraud in the industry. In fact, by working with our members and consumers, we have submitted 179 fraud reports to the Federal Trade Commission this year alone. We work closely with regulators to ensure the bad actors are held accountable, and that consumers are treated fairly. For those consumers that suspect they have been targeted by a fraudulent lender, they are invited to call the OLA consumer hotline at 1-866-299-7585 to speak with a live operator for help.
We, the members of the Online Lenders Alliance, pledge our commitment to ensuring the best possible customer experience, and the safety and security of our customers.
McGreevy is president and CEO of the Online Lenders Alliance, a professional trade organization representing the growing industry of companies offering consumers small, short-term loans online. OLA member companies abide by a list of Best Practices and Code of Conduct to ensure that customers are fully informed and fairly treated.