There is no segment of American society that is immune to credit scams. Beginning February 2, 1999, there will be a week-long series of consumer education initiatives and law enforcement events to mark the first annual National Consumer Protection Week.
The theme of the specially-designated week is Credit Fraud – Know the Rules, Use The Tools. It is sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, National Association of Attorneys General, National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, National Consumers League, and the American Association of Retired Persons. The intention of guest speakers from these organizations is to raise awareness about credit scams, and to teach consumers how to protect themselves.
No consumer is safe from credit fraud. There are five major ways that scammers prey on unsuspecting consumers:
–Credit repair fraud: targeting consumers with troubled credit histories, offering help in cleaning up their record – for a price. The scammers often claim that they can remove judgments, liens and other negative information from credit records.
–Home equity scams: targeting citizens, many of them elderly, with good credit histories who are living on fixed incomes, promising credit based on the equity of the home, not on the ability to pay. Many consumers lose their homes to these schemes.
–Identity theft: targeting consumers with excellent credit reputations, stealing credit card numbers, social security numbers, mothers maiden names or other personal identification information. They then use this information to set up new credit accounts. Typically consumers find out about their stolen identity when large amounts have been charged on their credit accounts, or their bank account has been drained.
–Advance fee loans: promising that for an advance payment even consumers with bad credit histories can get a loan. Some scammers use the 900 numbers that charge consumers who call to find out about the loans, and some charge a fee for a loan that is never delivered.
–File segregation scams: charging consumers with bad credit histories for advice on how to go about segregating their credit files, to obtain taxpayer identification or employer identification numbers and use them to shield true credit identities from creditors. This practice is illegal, and consumers who employ it are committing a felony.
More information about the week-long credit-related series is available by visiting the Federal Trade Commission Web site, www.ftc.gov, then clicking on Media Advisory. Copies of consumer education materials about credit scams are available several ways: by visiting www.ftc.gov or www.consumer.gov; by writing to the FTCs Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; or by calling 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357), or TDD for the hearing impaired 202-326-2502.
Educate yourself, and put credit scammers out of business.