Common sense would support the idea that hackers, scammers and thieves target wealthy people. After all, rich targets would allow them to rake in the most loot, right?
Unfortunately, it may be the other way around. Debt relief and refinancing scams are a major problem for a many middle and low-income Americans.
In fact, the FTC recently reached a settlement with three men who pretended to represent a nonprofit debt relief company. These men promised to eliminate debt in exchange for a monthly fee. In reality, they didn’t help their clients while pocketing the money. Their victims ended up with worse problems than before they agreed to the service.
Why scammers target those in debt
Although Indiana residents under financial pressure might not have much money to lose, you would be surprised by how much damage a scammer could do. Targets may pay expensive fees for a fake service, find unfamiliar purchases in their name or discover that their credit score is obliterated after the scam artists have their way.
Scammers can use the anxiety and fear of debt against you. They know that many people might give in to their scheme when they are desperate to repair their finances. Because residents may have a hard time thinking clearly while under this immense stress, they might not detect a suspicious offer until it’s too late.
How to avoid falling for a trap
As in this recent scam, many of these problems first start with a telemarketer call or random email. Sometimes, the voice on the other line pretends to work with your bank or other financial servicer.
Scammers may use terms and phrases to trick you into believing that their offer is exciting, such as telling you that you are “eligible” or “pre-approved” for their program. They might also give you a small timeframe to make your decision, hoping that you won’t take the time to think carefully.
If you receive a call like this, be extremely careful not to give away your information. Not all offers are scams, so exercise caution. Use a popular rule of thumb: if the offer is too good to be true, don’t take it.
Only work with reputable financial and legal professionals if you need help resolving a financial crisis. There are more reliable options for those in debt, including declaring bankruptcy to start fresh.