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   Inside Out - South: Friday January 26, 2007

The Dorset loan arranger

Jill Tobin
Taken for a ride - Jill Tobin and her business

Inside Out unmasks the Dorset-based loan arranger who’s been taking small businesses for a ride.

"Don’t go near him!", says Jill Tobin.

"The man doesn’t seem to have any morals about him whatsoever."

Jill wanted to buy a small hotel on the Isle of Wight.

Her bank had already agreed to lend her the money she needed, but Gary Thomas, trading as Funds4Business, said he could get her the loan at a much cheaper rate of interest.

So Jill paid Mr Thomas £350 up-front and agreed to pay him a hefty commission when her loan was finalised.

Loan tips

Always check out the credentials of the loan company you're dealing with.

If you’re looking for a business loan, make sure that your broker is a member of the National Association of Commercial Financial Brokers.

If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is - probe further.

Make sure you check out any paper work carefully and always read the small print before you sign up.

Contact Trading Standards if you think you've been misled.

Within a few weeks, Gary Thomas called to say that he’d got Jill’s loan and asked her to send him a cheque for £7,300.

Jill asked to see proof that the cheap loan Gary Thomas had promised really existed, but Mr Thomas refused.

She says:

"I thought it was extremely odd to be asked to pay such an enormous amount of money without seeing any paperwork."

Jill refused to send the money.

When the paperwork finally arrived, she was horrified to discover that the interest rate on the loan arranged by Gary Thomas was so high that it would have cost her an extra £1,500 a month more compared with the loan she’d already been offered by her bank.

Pub refurbishment loan

Mike Barnes was not so lucky - his bank offered him a loan to help Mike refurbish his pub.

But Gary Thomas, this time trading as Gateway, said he could better the deal offered by Mike’s bank.

So Mike paid him £350 upfront

Mike Barnes
At the rough end of a loan deal - publican Mike Barnes

Soon after, Gary Thomas called Mike to say that he’d arranged his cheap loan and asked for him immediately to send the commission fee of £1,687.50.

Unfortunately, Mike sent the money.

When the loan finally arrived, Mike discovered that Gary Thomas had arranged a loan that was £580 a month dearer than his existing bank loan.

"We’ve had over 40 complaints about Gary Thomas and his various businesses”, says Ivan Hancock from Dorset Trading Standards.

"We’re very concerned because we know these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg."

Cheap credit?

The problem for Trading Standards is they do not know whether Gary Thomas really tries his best to get cheap credit or whether he deliberately set-outs to mislead his clients by promising them loans he knows he cannot deliver.

So to put Gary Thomas to the test, a researcher from Inside Out contacted the National Association of Commercial Financial Brokers.

He asked them to provide him with a cover story – someone who wanted to borrow £200,000 to buy a closed-down pub but who would never be able to get a cheap loan.

Loan information
Check out the credentials of whoever is offering you a loan

Posing as that would-be bar owner, our researcher telephoned Gary Thomas who is now working as a consultant for Aktiv Finance Ltd.

And, despite telling Mr Thomas that he had never run a pub nor had any other business experience whatsoever, Gary Thomas still said he could get him a cheap loan.

"You shouldn’t believe it – he’s just telling you what you want to hear," warned Paul Thompson from the National Association of Commercial Financial Brokers.

Inside Out spoke to Gary Thomas - he denied that he’d done anything wrong.

Thomas said that his contract with Jill Tobin gave him the right to ask for £7,300.

He also said he had no record of any transaction with Mike Barnes and has recently stopped asking for upfront fees.

But the advice from Inside Out is clear - if you’re looking for a business loan, make sure that your broker is a member of the National Association of Commercial Financial Brokers.

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