By JIM KREIDLER
FTC consumer education specialist
Say you’re struggling to pay off your credit cards — which is already difficult with high interest rates — and you hear about a company that promises to reduce or eliminate your credit card debt for a fee. Sounds great, right? But how can you tell if that offer is legitimate or a scam?
The FTC recently announced settlements with the operators of a deceptive debt relief scam. The FTC sued the three operators and their related companies (which went by multiple names including ACRO Services) for taking tens of millions of dollars from people by falsely promising to eliminate or reduce their credit card debt. The scam charged people fees in the thousands of dollars and even told them to stop making payments to their credit card companies — leaving people in a far worse position — with damaged credit and owing their original debts plus thousands in fees and interest.
As part of the settlements with the FTC, these scammers are permanently banned from running any debt relief services or engaging in telemarketing, and they must turn over assets that will be used to provide any possible refunds to people affected by the scam.
Follow these steps to spot and avoid credit card debt relief scams.
●Don’t pay upfront. It’s illegal for a debt relief company to charge you a fee before they do anything to relieve your debt.
●Talk with your credit card company. For free. Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card. Ask for a payment plan that you’ll be able to afford.
●Consider a reputable credit counselor. They can help you develop a payment plan that works for you.
Spot a company making calls or claims like this? Report them at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.