Phony Credit Card Scam, Still Making the Rounds

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There's so much emphasis on cyber-crime and online scams these days that it can be easy to forget that scams and con-artists have been around long before the Internet.  Criminals use the phone to commit many different types of fraud, including sweepstakes and lottery frauds, loan fraud, buying club memberships, and credit card scams. Desperate times like these can make us ready to cling to anything that gives us hope of financial relief, despite the fact that we'd recognize the scam in a minute if it turned up in our inbox.  Criminals and scammers know this, so they're relying on old-school techniques to try and nab consumers who have gotten too used to looking for threats online to recognize threats that come from other directions.

A woman in Georgia was recently convicted of telemarketing fraud, part of a group who had stolen approximately $25 million from unsuspecting consumers who simply wanted to save some money -and reduce their credit card interest rate.  Kara Singleton Adams and three others ran the scam, contacting people at home via the phone and offering them a way to reduce their credit card interest rates.  Given the state of the economy, many people found the offer too good to pass up; Adams and her cohorts would then collect a fee of hundreds of dollars for the service, leaving the scam victims waiting for a rate reduction that never came.

It sounds like something you might see in your junk mail folder, but a lot of people fell for this scam.  The calls were structured to sound professional, often being made from an autodialer that prompted call recipients to press "1" if they were interested in lowering their credit card rate. Consumers who pressed "1" were connected to a live telemarketer claiming they had a special relationship with the consumer's creditors and that allowed them to negotiate lower credit card interest rates on their behalf and save them thousands of dollars in interest payments.

Adams and the others would act as representatives of a legitimate-sounding debt reduction company, claiming to have special agreements arranged with major credit card companies that allowed them to negotiate the rate reduction.  Program costs were listed as being between $749 and $1495, with Adams or one of the other scammers explaining that the cost of the program would be largely covered by the savings the consumer received after his or her interest rates dropped.

In the end, the group victimized consumers in 46 states before being caught.  Adams, her husband and two others were charged with wire fraud, conspiracy and structuring financial transactions in a trial that lasted only two weeks; Adams' husband and their two accomplices pled guilty to the charges, and Adams was found guilty by a federal jury on November 8th.  Similar scams are still being investigated, including mail fraud scams under investigation by the US Postal Service.

This just goes to show you that you can't let down your guard.  Remember the old adage: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Don't accept the word of a stranger who calls you out of the blue, and don't assume that a telemarketer works for a legitimate company just because he uses an automated system to contact you.  If you really want to lower your credit card interest rates, contact your credit card issuer directly and see what help they can offer.

This is where this blog would have ended --but in a twisted example of irony or coincidence --my phone rang. 

I looked at the caller ID and saw two words and a number: "Payment Reduction" 206-496-0401. I thought --Really? It' can't be...could it? But of course --it was.

I listened intently as the voice on the other end of this automated call promised to "reduce or eliminate" my credit card debt.

In fact, this caller reported they were "instructed" to lower my credit card debt.  

Though I don't recommend anyone doing what I did next, (in fact -you shouldn't), --I pushed #5 --the option that indicated I was interested in saving money and speaking to their representative. I couldn't resist the opportunity to let them know how timely their call was and encourage them to read visit my blog today to learn why. But instead of getting a live person on the line after pressing #5 --I heard yet another recording. This time the voice relayed that all representatives were busy helping other people and that I should simply leave my full name and estimated debt --and someone would get back to me.  I didn't leave my name, number or any message with them. Instead, I hung up and proceeded to leave my name and number with the FTC as I reported this scam. If you receive a similar telemarketing scam, you should report the phone fraud immediately--and here's how;

To Report Phone Fraud

Anyone with a phone can be victimized by telemarketing scam artists. Report telephone scam artists to the Federal Trade Commission and your state Attorney General. The Telemarketing Sales Rule gives these local law enforcement officers the power to prosecute fraudulent telemarketers who operate across state lines.

 Do You Know The Most Common Telemarketing Scams? Recognize & Report PHONE FRAUD. Click here to report phone fraud now.

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