North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Scams to watch out for in tough times

1/30/2009


By Attorney General Roy Cooper


Times are hard and families across our state are trying to make their dollars stretch as far as possible. But a bad economy can be boon for con artists. Scammers will promise to save your home, help you get a loan or get you out of debt, but they’re really just trying to get rich at your expense. Don’t fall for their ploys.
 
Here are some scams to watch out for during tough economic times:
 
Foreclosure Rescue
 
These scammers prey on homeowners in foreclosure, promising to help you deal with your lender and save your home.  But once you pay the fee, you’ll get little or no help to modify your loan or get out of foreclosure. We recently shut down three foreclosure rescue scams operating in the Charlotte area. 
 
Steer clear of foreclosure rescue companies that require a payment before they’ll help you. It’s illegal to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure assistance services in North Carolina.  
 
Homeowners who fall victim to these foreclosure rescue schemes lose critical time and precious money that could be better spent on real solutions. For free help dealing with foreclosure, call the HOPE hotline at 888-995-HOPE. You can call the hotline toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week for free counseling on your options.
 
Credit Repair and Debt Settlement
 
Watch out for outfits that promise to fix your credit report, boost your credit score, or cut your debts in exchange for an upfront fee. One of these debt settlement outfits that we shut down last year promised to help customers avoid bankruptcy and become debt free in as little as one to three years. But in reality credit repair and debt settlement scams cheat consumers out of hundreds or thousands of dollars and will generally do nothing to improve your credit or help you get out of debt.   
 
Under North Carolina law, it’s illegal to charge upfront fees for credit repair or debt settlement services. Instead, talk to a non-profit credit counselor who may be able to help you set up a legitimate plan to manage your debts. Find an accredited, non-profit credit counselor in your area by contacting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388-2227 or www.nfcc.org.  
 
Advance Fee Loans, Grants and Credit Cards
 
Credit is harder to get right now and scammers know it. Beware of ads, telemarketing calls and other pitches that promise to help you get a loan, a credit card or even a free government grant in exchange for an upfront fee. In most cases, you’ll be wasting your money if you pay them a dime.
 
Under North Carolina law, it’s illegal for a loan broker to charge an upfront fee to help get a loan or a credit card for a consumer. If you need credit, shop around with several banks and lenders rather than responding to advance fee pitches. Be sure to compare costs, terms and rates from several credit card issuers/lenders.
 
Also, don’t fall for outfits that guarantee they can help you get a government grant. Legitimate grants are competitive and not everyone who applies gets funding. Instead of paying a fee for help finding grants, check directly with federal, state and local government agencies or visit www.grants.gov.
 
For more help and tips or to report a scam, visit my website at www.ncdoj.gov or call my Consumer Protection office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.


Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff work to help North Carolina consumers make smart choices and avoid scams. We are here to be of service when you need us, but through education efforts like these columns we hope to help consumers avoid problems from the start.