Submitted by Jen Jones on Sun, 09/06/2009 - 3:18pm
Now that every bit of information about you is digitized, it is easier than ever to use your own data against you.Â Scammers know that flashing a little bit of knowledge can disarm an otherwiseÂ savvy consumer, so don't be fooled into falling for the latest scam just because someone knows your address, details from your purchasing history, or even your social security number.
One new scam to be on the lookout for involves fake rebate checks. Basically, scammers send you a check in the mail for a rebate on an item you may have purchased. It's possible they may actually know that you purchased the item, but it's also possible that scammers will stick with popular or "hot" items, the kind of stuff you see advertised on TV and magazines, and snag consumers by counting on coincidence; either that you bought the item or that you were planning to buy it. One such program looks like an official check from the manufacturer, complete with a trademark logo, but it's actually a ploy to obtain your signatureâ€¦and therefore your consent to sign up for junk you don't want at prices you don't care to spend. If you get a rebate check in the mail, be very careful to read all of the teeny tiny printâ€•annoying, but not more so than having to fight a company to recoup money you've been tricked into spending.
And here's another scam, this one involving fake bill collectorsâ€•as if the real thing weren't bad enough! This particular set of bad guys will call you and pretend to be collecting on a bill, making threats and demanding payments for debts you never owed or don't owe on any more. Reports about this scam are especially unsettling because the scammers seem to have a lot of information at their disposal on the people they are calling.
So how can you tell if the bill collector is the real thing or another scammer on the take? Scammers will often report that they're employed for agencies that don't exist, so if you're unsure about why someone is calling, request information about the company and the caller, explain that you want to look into the situation and hang up. Afterward, do a little research; if you're satisfied it's a real company you can always call the number back. Another warning sign are the kinds of threats scammers make; for example, threatening to send people to jail if they don't make payments. You can't be sent to jail over debt, so this particular threat is a dead giveaway. Finally, remember not to be fooled just because the person appears to have information about you; don't confirm that any of the information is correct, since that may be the objective of the call in the first place. Remember that you have the right to demand written proof of your debt, and you should do so at the first sign of trouble.
You don't have to take abuse from fake bill collectors, but the real thing are no joke either. Unlike the scammers, legit agencies won't stop calling you until you do something to end your debt problems for good. If you can barely keep your debts straight, making it easy for scammers to take advantage of your vulnerable state, bankruptcy could be the answer for you.
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