RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Many Americans are struggling to pay off credit debt -- and at the same time, crooks are looking to cash in on their financial hardships.
It's an attractive offer that many people looking to get out of credit card debt are fooled into believing. The phony calls usually promise to reduce your credit debit for a fee -- but Consumer Affairs experts say while it sounds good, it's more than likely a big sham.
If you are strapped for cash and your credit cards are maxed out, you may be looking for ways to reduce your interest rate. That means you could be a prime target for crooks looking to cash in on your financial troubles.
Consumer Affairs experts say be cautious of phone calls trying to get you to lower your interest rate, especially those claiming to have a special relationship with your credit card company.
Tina Holt with the Virginia Consumer Affairs Agency says, "The truth of the matter is there is no company that has a special relationship with the credit card issuer and they try to claim they can guarantee these reductions but they are going to charge you a fee for it."
The fraudulent callers usually hook consumers by claiming they can save them thousands of dollars in interest and finance charges and allow them to pay down their credit card debt three to five times faster.
The catch: the caller wants you to act now for a fee, usually between $500 to $1,000. In the end, your credit rates don't decrease and you could be left in even more debt.
Holt says, "What consumers need to realize is that they can just as easily contact their credit card companies themselves for free and try to negotiate on their own terms and reduction in their credit card interest rate."
Here are some ways to protect yourself: Don't give out your credit card information, don't share other personal information like your social security number and be skeptical of any unsolicited pre-recorded sales calls.
Holt says, "They are preying on people because they realize they don't have money, yet they are asking people to pay money for their services."
If you are getting these unsolicited calls, a reminder that you can add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. Also, if you think you are a victim of a credit card reduction rate deception, you can report it to your local Consumer Affairs office or the Federal Trade Commission.