Current Financial Scams

Auto Repair Scams

One of the most common complaints made to the Better Business Bureau and federal and state authorities are about car mechanics.  There are so many thieves in this industry that it is hard to find an honest mechanic, so be aware of the most common scams.  Many mechanics will provide customers with low cost estimates of necessary repairs; however, afterwards they will claim that additional work was needed and bill the customer for significantly more than the estimate.  Another scam to lure victims in to the shop is to advertise low cost regular maintenance work such as oil changes, lube jobs, etc. and then "find" something seriously wrong with the car that needs immediate fixing.  Victims might also be ripped off when the mechanic does not really replace parts or uses substandard or counterfeit parts.  Always get a written estimate, check with the Better Business Bureau and Yelp.com before agreeing to have work done.  You can find out what car repairs and parts should cost at automd.com/repaircost.

Free Trial Offer Scams

Most of the free trial offers advertised on television and in magazines are actually a scam that will milk you out of at least $80, perhaps more. They don't tell you in the ad that hidden clauses in the agreement require you to: (1) pay a bloated shipping and handling fee that often exceeds the retail value of the free trial product; (2) give them your credit card or debit card information; (3) require you to join a club or enroll in a membership to receive recurring shipments which they will automatically charge to your credit card or debit card.  What is likely to happen is that month after month you will notice charges on your credit or debit card and you might have a difficult time getting them to cancel your membership, so skip the free trials.

Fake Emails from Banks

Never click on a link in an email claiming to be from a bank or other financial institution claiming that you need to verify your account.  Thieves can make emails look like they are legitimately from any bank.  They send millions of fake emails hoping to find an actual customer who will click on a link in the email and provide their login and password information.  For example, you bank at Citibank and you receive an email that appears to be from them asking you to click on a link in the text and "confirm your account number" or some other such nonsense.  If you click on the link, the thieves might automatically download malware that will take over your computer or record your keystrokes so they can steal your passwords or they might just want your banking log-in information so they can empty out your account.  If you receive an email from your bank, do not click on any links in it.  Instead, type the web address in the URL box and go directly to the website.  if the email asks you to call a specific 800 number, do not call that number.  Instead, call the number you have on record for the bank.

Advance Fee Loan Scam

Send them about $300 and they promise to lower your car payment and reduce the interest rate on your car loan.  There are several versions of this scam with some promising to lower your mortgage payment or get you a loan, grant or some other type of loan if you send them money upfront.  It is actually illegal for lenders to ask for money upfront for the promise or guarantee of a loan.

SBA Loan Scam

This scam is similar to the Advance Fee Loan Scam above in that the victim is asked to pay a service fee upfront for special help getting a Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan. 

Debt Relief Scam

These companies promise that they can wipe out all of your credit card debt or reduce your debt significantly for a fee they ask victims to pay upfront.  They claim to have agreements with major creditors that allow them to negotiate unsecured debt, but the truth is that they do not.  They will string you along for months and months, often asking you to stop paying your debts altogether and sending all your money to them.  Eventually, you will get suspicious and start hounding them for your money back.  When too many customers start complaining, they will take your money and run! Even legitimate debt relief companies can't do what they promise.  They charge you a big fee to negotiate with your creditors, but you can do it yourself.  Visit our debt section for free information and sample letters on debt negotiation.

Secret Shopper  or Mystery Shopper Scam

This scam is advertised all over the Internet, particularly at job websites.  If you sign up to be a secret shopper, they will definitely send you a check for being a secret shopper, but it will be for more than they owe you, say around $3000.  They will ask you to deposit the check in to your checking account and send $500 to a third person.  The check will bounce about a month later and they will have your $500.  The bank will ask you to pay the $3000 if you have already spent the money. Another version of this scam is an attempt to get your checking account number.  They might ask for your checking account number so they can make a direct deposit, but they really want to empty your checking account.  See also Employment Scams

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