Always remember your six C’s of credit, even if the C’s don’t always seem to be the same for everyone. For some, the sixth C is Common Sense. And, when something does not quite ‘fit’ in the story, that is when it is time to dig a little deeper…

A few weeks ago, an underwriter contacted me about her process in reviewing a new deal. She also wanted to share some Red Flags that arose in her process.

The prospect had been owned by one party, but all correspondence had been through another individual. We’ll call him Joe. The underwriter on the deal felt that Joe, although stating he was forthcoming, continued to omit pieces of information. She went through her six C’s of credit ultimately concluding to decline the deal.

But, let’s start at the beginning, the credit.

The debtor credit was insufficient for the amount being requested; the credit department was looking for additional history to support the request. In the interim, the underwriter requested copies of invoices. Joe said they did not invoice the debtor. Instead, they provided handwritten backup to the debtor and the debtor invoiced the client. The underwriter never did receive a report or copy of these debtor invoices.

Speaking of credit, the application noted another person owning the business, not Joe. The owner’s personal credit and background appeared good. However, the documentation on who actually owned the company legally did not link back to this person. Moreover, Joe had been the one to provide all correspondence, since he was who was running the daily operations. Since Joe did not own the business, he also would not sign an application for credit or background checks, nor would he sign any type of guaranty. After all, he was just helping out the owner to start the business.

The underwriter then decided to start searching – the Internet – there were just too many pieces that did not add up in the story. After trying different search phrases, there it was… Joe was no stranger to factoring. In fact, he had defrauded other factors in other states using the same strategy. Unfortunately for him, one of those times, he had the business in his name.

But, it was the Common Sense part of the underwriting process that led the underwriter to search a little bit more on the Internet, where she ultimately found these articles. Afterwards, she prepared some Red Flags to think about when going through this process:

Red Flag # 1:

“This prospect was almost overly friendly, likable, and eager to help. Fraudsters know that they need to become your friend first in order to drop the wall of skepticism between you. Typically prospects will get exasperated with the front end factoring process at some point in time, but this prospect was always making reassuring statements such as ‘we will get whatever report you need, and I will make sure that it has every piece of information you need is on it’.  He also didn’t even hesitate when I asked to speak directly to the debtor at an early stage in the underwriting process which would typically be a good sign.”

Please note that the reports were never received; the conversation with the debtor was never had.

Red Flag # 2:

“Double Talk. After going through a few questions on the underwriting call, specifically Joe’s background and experience, I felt as though we had talked for over 20 minutes regarding his background yet I couldn’t tell you one thing about him. Keep in mind that he wasn’t the owner of the business, but was acting more as an advisor and therefore we didn’t have any information on him (application info, background/credit information, driver’s license, financials, etc.). I pressed a bit further and nicely let him know that I still really didn’t understand what his experience or background was and that this is an important piece given the fact that it is a start-up operation. At this point, he finally realized he would have to give something concrete and told me that he used to work in the sporting goods industry (still not much). As we know, when answers are vague, that is when you need to keep pressing for better answers.”

This is another tactic fraudsters will use (see How to Smell a Rat).

Red Flag # 3:

“Physical signs of discomfort. When pressing the individual for a background report, I not only got an excuse as to why that wouldn’t be necessary, but he also mentioned his age along with the a reference as to his great character accompanied by a sort of numerous small coughs that had not been there previously. When attending the IFA’s fraud seminar this past year, a former FBI agent spoke to the group regarding various physical signs of distress. This was clearly a sign of distress as he had never done that in our previous conversations, going back to what the agent called ‘knowing your prospect’s baseline’.”

Thank you for sharing your experience with our readers.

Wishing you all continued success. The Factor Guru.