fbiWelcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week, building a digital defense against debt elimination scams.

Welcome to your day-after-Christmas-oh-my-gosh-how-much-did-I-just spend-hangover. The good news is — you aren’t alone. The bad news is that there is no easy way to get rid of that post-holiday debt… despite what all those folks on your social media feed may say.

So how does this kind of scam work? The bad guys target consumers with significant credit card debt and promise to negotiate on your behalf to reduce the debt or get rid of it all together. They often charge an up-front fee and then fail to do much if anything. And, remember when you thought they were going to help you and you gave them all your personal info — including your social security number, bank account number and credit card details? Well, now you are also at risk for ID theft.

These scammers promote their alleged “services” on the Internet, via emails or social media posts. Sometimes they even give seminars. They often promote inaccurate information about supposedly secret laws such as the conspiracy theory that says credit card companies and banks cannot loan money legally. Sounds crazy but these bad actors can be very convincing. The variations on these types of scams are endless.

So how can you protect yourself? 

Do your homework on the service or counselor and shop around. Ask questions and get answers in writing. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau.
Don’t give anyone your bank account number or other financial information that could allow him to access your accounts.
Don’t send money to strangers, unsolicited contacts, or people you don’t know face-to-face.
Don’t respond to unsolicited emails or click on unsolicited links to application forms or websites.
Don’t trust unsolicited social media posts from “friends” saying a service worked for them without confirming it from your friend directly. Many times those accounts are hacked or spoofed.
Don’t trust anything that seems like an easy way to eliminate debt. You can’t eliminate an obligation to pay a debt simply by paying someone a fee.

If you have been victimized by this scam, you can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.

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