Guest Contributor

When debt seems like a hole you’ll never climb out of, an offer promising to settle your liabilities for pennies on the dollar can be tempting. But proceed with care: Some debt relief offers will line a scammer’s pockets while digging you a deeper financial hole.

How It Works

  • Scam debt relief offers promise “guarantees” to get you out of debt quickly and cleanly.
  • They ask you to pay advance and ongoing fees for the “services” they provide.
  • They offer to enroll you in a debt relief program without reviewing your financial situation with you.
  • They might tell you to stop paying your creditors.

What You Should Know

  • There simply is no guarantee that any debt relief program will get you out of debt or stop collection calls or lawsuits. Anyone promising this is lying to you.
  • There is no way a debt relief plan can work for you if it isn’t based on your specific financial situation. Offers to enroll you without that review are bogus.
  • It’s illegal for debt relief companies to seek upfront payment before they provide services to you. Walk away when you learn about upfront fees.
  • In a scam scenario, you might be led to believe fees you are paying to the debt relief company are going to your creditors. If you follow their guidance to stop paying your creditors, you could end up being sued by them.

What You Should Do

  • Check with your state attorney general and consumer protection agency before working with a debt relief service to see if it has been the subject of complaints.
  • Consider negotiating with creditors directly or connect with a debt counselor through a nonprofit credit counseling organization, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org).
  • Report any debt relief scams to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1‑800‑382‑4357 or going online to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams.

Source: AARP Fraud Watch Network