Telemarketers call all the time. They call you when you’re at dinner, watching your favorite TV show, or when you’re trying to have an important conversation with someone. Annoying? Sure, but for the most part we realize they are just trying to do their jobs. However, not all telemarketers are well-intentioned folks. The FTC recently settled with a group of telemarketers who were swindling customers through robocalling efforts centered around debt relief.
The claims for these types of scams are always quite substantial. The scam in question in this federal case was run by a company that often used the name AFL Financial Services, or AFL. For $995, the consumer could get assistance from the company that could drastically reduce their credit card interest rates and thus save them “lots of money”. However, it wasn’t long before consumers learned that the company did not actually provide any money-saving services.
The program also falsely claimed that customers should see a drastic reduction in their debt, but if they did not, they would receive a refund. During the investigation, authorities concluded that the scam took in about $13 million from their customers, but no refunds were ever issued.
Though it is good news that this robocalling operation was shut down, there are many other robocalling scams that are operating in America and throughout the world. Each of these scams could take in tens of thousands of customers and millions of dollars in revenue from unsuspecting customers.
How the Robocalling Scam Worked
From a customer’s perspective, the calls start out innocently enough. As the recorded message tells you that you can lower your interest rates, most debtors begin to imagine and prepare for all of the money they will save and the changes they would be able to make to their monthly budgets, with the help of the service. One of the warning signs of the offer was that the callers usually did not know the names of the banks where the cards were, and they have little to no interest in what the rates on those cards were, but yet could still guarantee that they would lower them significantly. In this and many similar scams, the caller is more concerned with trying to get you to pay money to get your debt diminished.
Because the plan sounds so intriguing, it is no surprise that people are drawn to it, however, you should consider what a scam sounds like and how to discern what programs are worth doing and which will likely just result in a waste of time and money.
How to Avoid Scams When Choosing Debt Management Services
First, you want to use a program that guides you through the debt-management process. This means that a credit counselor will show you how to negotiate with your creditors, or they will negotiate on your behalf. If there is anything that causes a problem for consumers, it is the idea that some systems could be legitimate. You won’t know until you try, but, when you find a program that makes sense for you, you will likely not be robocalled constantly. This is because they are gunning for your confidence and your money as hard as possible. When you are contacted, you will also be contacted by a real person and not an answering service.
The next step is to make sure that you have done everything you can do to make the robocalling stop. Yes, you can keep them at bay by not answering the phone, but you should also find a way to get your number on the “Do Not Call” list so you will be able to ensure that unwanted companies are not calling you.
If you fear that you might get pulled in by a good-sounding scam, you should always ask a few things of the person who calls you:
- 1. Which bank are you with? (multiple times throughout the call)
- 2. How much is this going to cost me?
When you are paying to get your debt erased, you are buying into something that is not real. Paying for the services of a debt counselor who can show you how to eliminate and repair debt is a good investment in your financial well-being.
If you are being called when you are on the “Do Not Call” list, you can report that company to the FTC. Also, if you feel as though someone is attempting to scam you, you can report them to the FTC as well. Globally, these scams are a problem because the tough economic circumstances make it very easy for people to be susceptible to such schemes. Part of stopping these types of scams is dependent on people that report them. Many times, they go unreported because consumers are embarrassed that they were taken in. This only allows the scamming to continue.
Finally, if at any moment you feel that you are working with a company that may not be above-board, you can call on your local chapter of the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been complaints against the company in question. If there are not and you feel that you are in the middle of a scam, you need to ensure that you are the first to file a complaint against said company.
The only way to stop robocalling and keep yourself protected from their schemes, like the $13 million scheme that was recently settled, is to be on your guard and research companies you are not familiar with thoroughly before agreeing to doing business with them. You should be vigilant in keeping your debt under control, but you should also be vigilant in knowing that the services are paying for are legitimate as well.