A long recession keeps the scam artists busy. Skip to main content
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A long recession keeps the scam artists busy.

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Bankruptcy can help people who owe a lot of money and lost a job. It can help those who are buried in medical bills. And even someone who was saddled with the worst of it after a divorce.

Sometimes, and perhaps most unfortunately, we see bankruptcy coming to the aid of a person who was scammed out of their money.

With the recession still gripping much of mainstream America and the unemployment problems perpetuating it, thieves and scam artists are on high alert. The best ones are able to twist current societal hot topics into crimes and pinpoint victims quickly.

In the last few years, countless Web sites have emerged to help people find and attend an online college, many of which are “for profit” organizations. Then of course, you’ll need to find a way to pay for it. Enter the student loan scam.

Scam artists are now creating Web sites that for a fee, will provide you a list of organizations and resources that provide scholarships for these types of colleges. Of course, few of the names listed are legitimate and the fees are unreasonable. Try to demand your money back, and well, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle of busy signals and bounced e-mails.

These sites are also pushing e-mails announcing “scholarship winners.” All you need to do to claim your big check is provide them with some personal information. You know, the kind that helps access your checking account and home equity line.

Given the size of the nation’s student loan debt, which is now greater than our collective credit card debt, it’s no wonder that scam artists have found their way in. And remember, only in rare cases is student loan dischargeable in bankruptcy. Make sure, if you need a loan, it comes from an actual lending organization with a measurable history.

Here’s another scary way for you to lose money that’s gaining in popularity, especially as people try to earn back lost stock market investments: affinity scams. This grift is especially troubling because it typically comes from a friend purporting to “have inside info” on a great new investment. It will be limited to only a few special folks who get in early and you need to provide cash to get started.

First and foremost, never invest in anything that requires you to “act fast.” Smart investing takes research and time. Not to mention a respect for the law. What makes affinity scams difficult to track is that no one can find the actual source. Usually, your friend was simply convinced by another friend, who heard it from a guy at work, who has a brother-in-law that … and then you’re out $10,000. It happens that fast. Someone somewhere has your money. And you don’t even have a receipt.

As usual, the Craigslist bums are still at it, promising job interviews and lists of inside opportunities in exchange for your personal registration and resume on some obscure Web site. Yeah, it’s an old one, but it still works. Like the African guy who needs you to cash a check for him.

Be careful out there. New Year or not, it’s still pretty nasty out there.

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