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PHASE FOUR: “Help! I’ve been scammed!”

With the forward movement of technology, thieves have become more sophisticated about the ways they try to steal your money. Stay a step ahead of the bad guys with these valuable tips.

1) Avoiding and Reporting Scams

Financial predators will tempt you with promises, bargains, and claims of plentiful rewards to be reaped with one provision: access to your money! If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t—good words to follow when it comes to scams.

The top three scams to watch for:

  1. Free product trials: Deceptive “free trial” offers are alluring come-ons to try a diet-pill, teeth whitening strips, or wrinkle cream.
  2. Foreclosure rescues: Foreclosure rescue companies claim they can assist homeowners facing foreclosure with options that allow them to keep their property, refinance or modify an existing mortgage, repair credit or help “buy more time”—in reality, these “options” are intended to convince you to take the wrong steps so they can take your money and possibly your home
  3. Debt settlement: The goal of debt settlement is to satisfy your creditors for less than what they claim you owe and to save you as much money as possible during the process—but most people choose debt settlement because their desire to have closure on being in debt and their priority of becoming debt free becomes their number one goal and it outweighs any real or perceived thought of any negative impact that it could have on their credit history while going through the process of debt settlement.

What to do if you’ve been scammed:

Stay calm. Write down all the facts. Don’t contact the spammer. Then, make a report to your local law enforcement agency and state attorney general’s office. Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission. And don’t forget to contact your bank and the credit reporting agencies and let them know as well.

2) Identity Theft

In 2009, over 11 million people were victims to identity theft. That’s 21 people a minute! Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

Personally Identifying Information includes:

  • Your name
  • Social Security number
  • Credit card number

How to stop identity theft:

  1. Monitor your accounts and bank statements each month.
  2. Shred any and all papers that you would normally put in the trash that have your name or other personal information on them—and use a crosscut shredder when you do.
  3. Check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.

Note: You may ask for a free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion —don’t ask for your free report from all three at once—spread out your requests over the year to be able to periodically check your credit records.

3) Phishing Scams

Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims are engaging in “Phishing”. Their message may ask you to "update," "validate," or "confirm" your account information.

How to avoid getting conned by a Phishing Scam:

  1. Don’t assume your spam filter will keep Phish out of your inbox! Screen your messages carefully, especially if the messages come from unknown senders or ask you to click a link, call a phone number, or warn you of dire consequences if you don’t respond.
  2. Be suspicious of official-looking emails that ask you to share or “confirm” your secure information. These messages typically direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization's site, is actually a spoofed site designed to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
  3. Even if you think it’s legit, check the link! Spoofed links can be hard to spot, especially if they’ve covertly misspelled a name brand’s website, or created an image that looks like the real website address, but takes you to an IP address-type server instead. Some examples of spoofed links:

    Right: www.JointServicesSupport.org

    Wrong: www.JointServiceSupports.org

    or

    Looks like www.JointServicesSupport.org, but takes you to http://111.444.246.813/index.aspx

  4. Phishing scams can come from friends’ email accounts if they’ve been hacked. Call your friend to ask if they intended to send the link – if not, they need to act immediately to protect their account!

4) Predatory Lending

Predatory lending may be described as imposing unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers. Predatory lending laws are slowly being integrated into the legal systems of the federal government and the individual states. More than 35 states have already placed a legal limit on the maximum prepayment penalty that a homeowner should have to pay, and over half of the States have taken steps to limit predatory lending practices during the last five years. While the definition of predatory lending varies in each state, the awareness that individual citizens need to be protected by predatory lending laws is growing.

As of 1 October 2007, Federal regulation prohibits creditors from making payday loans, vehicle title loans and tax refund anticipation loans to active duty Service Members and their dependents with annual percentage rates over 36 percent. Military Members and Family members must identify themselves as military to take advantage of the lower fixed interest rate.

Go to Phase Five

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