Advance-fee loan sharks are preying on unwary consumers, taking their money for the promise of a loan or credit and leaving them in hot water. The scam artists often impersonate legitimate lenders to entice consumers into falling for their bogus offer.
You want to get your money back for a product or service you were not satisfied with, but the company has gone bankrupt. What can you do?
Chain letters promise a big return on a small investment. It could be the promise of unprecedented good luck, recipes or huge financial rewards for a mere $5 investment. Do not waste your money! Chain letters are illegal and they do not work.
There are many variations of the fake check scam. It could be someone offering to buy something you advertised, pay you to do work at home, or give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you have supposedly won. If you cash a fake check and transfer a portion to another party, you will be on the hook for the total amount cashed (plus any associated fees) when the bank discovers the forgery.
College Financial Aid
With tuition bills skyrocketing and room and board costs going through the roof, students and their families are looking for creative ways to finance a college education. Unfortunately, in their efforts to pay the bills, many families fall prey to scholarship and financial aid scams.
Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: Lost/Stolen
Many people find it easy and convenient to use credit cards and ATM or debit cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) offer procedures for you to follow if your cards are lost or stolen.
Credit allows consumers to use and enjoy purchases before they have been paid for in full. It comes in many shapes and forms including credit cards, auto loans and home mortgages. Credit cards come with many perks including frequent flyer miles and point schemes; are convenient to carry; and, when used carefully, are safer than cash. But keep in mind that there are some drawbacks to using credit.
Credit Card Chargebacks
As a credit card user, you have certain rights under state and federal law which allow you to obtain a refund in the form of a chargeback on your credit card in certain situations.
There are two reasons recognized by federal law by which you can dispute making a payment on your credit card billing statement: problems with billing errors or a reason called “claims and defenses.”
Credit Card Guide and Usage
There are many types of credit cards with various features, but there is no one best credit card. It is important to shop around and choose the right credit card to suit your needs.
Credit Card Offers
It can be more convenient to use credit cards than cash or checks, especially for large purchases. But companies that offer to help you get a credit card may actually intend to steal your money.
Credit Card Protection Offers
Watch out for unsolicited phone pitches offering “loss protection” insurance for your credit cards. Telephone scam artists are lying to get people to buy these worthless protection programs. If you did not authorize a charge, do not pay it. Follow your credit card issuer’s procedures for disputing charges you have not authorized. Your liability for unauthorized charges is limited to $50.
Credit/Debit Card Blocking
When you use a debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump, for a restaurant meal, to check into a hotel or to rent a car, the merchant contacts the card issuer electronically with the estimated cost. If the card issuer approves the transaction, your available line of credit or checking account balance is reduced by this amount. This is called a “block” or “pre-authorization.”
You see credit repair service offerings in newspapers, mail flyers, on TV or the internet, and hear them on the radio or phone calls. The fact is there is no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately. It takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.
Credit Report Request Form
To obtain a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus, visit
www.annualcreditreport.com, call (877) 322-8228, or download and complete the form linked above and submit it by mail (instructions are on the form).
Credit Report Security Freeze
Wisconsin consumers have the right to place a security freeze on their credit reports. Parents and legal guardians can also place a security freeze on the credit report of a child or other protected individual. A security freeze can help protect from identity theft.
Fraudulent telemarketers have found yet another way to steal your money, this time from your checking account. A debit card is an electronic card issued by a bank which allows bank clients access to their checking account to withdraw cash or pay for goods and services. Consumers across the country are complaining about unauthorized debits from their checking accounts.
If you or someone you know is in financial hot water, consider these options: realistic budgeting, credit counseling from a reputable organization, debt consolidation or bankruptcy. Debt negotiation is yet another option. How do you know which will work best for you? It depends on your level of debt, your level of discipline and your prospects for the future.
Being contacted by someone who wants to collect a debt can be upsetting. This fact sheet explains some of your rights and responsibilities under the law and answers some frequently asked questions about debt collection.
Equal Credit Opportunity
People use credit to pay for education or a house, a remodeling job or a car, or to finance a loan to keep their business operating. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or because you get public assistance. Creditors may ask you for most of this information in certain situations, but they may not use it when deciding whether to give you credit or when setting the terms of your credit.
Fair Credit Billing
Have you ever been billed for merchandise you returned or never received? Has your credit card company ever charged you twice for the same item or failed to credit a payment to your account? One of the benefits of using credit and charge cards is that they come with built-in consumer protection under a federal law called the Fair Credit Billing Act. This law gives you the right to dispute fraudulent and unfair credit charges.
Foreign Money Scams
People in Wisconsin are being targeted to invest in complicated bank fraud schemes. These scams originate from all over the world – from places such as Nigeria, Switzerland, Canada and Jamaica to name a few.
Free Credit Reports
The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each nationwide consumer reporting company to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA also promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s consumer reporting companies.
Government Grant Scams
Grant pitches offering “money for nothing” are usually scams, whether you see them in your local paper or a national magazine, or hear about them on the phone. Grant scammers generally follow a script: they congratulate you on your eligibility, then ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account” or submit a one-time “processing fee.” You will never see the grant they promise — they will disappear with your money.
Thousands of senior citizens are victimized every year by "family emergency scams," better known as “grandparent scams." With this scam, scammers contact elderly people and impersonate a family member (typically a grandchild) or friend desperately in need of money due to a supposed emergency and convince the elderly person to send money quickly.
Overindulgence is often a popular theme during the holiday season – too much food, too much drink and too much spending. Overspending at the holidays can easily push you into serious and troublesome financial situations, or aggravate existing debt problems.
Identity Theft Consumer Tips
Any combination of basic personal details (name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, etc.) is all it takes for an identity thief to misuse your identity. Learn more about the basics of safeguarding your information.
Beware! Imposters are everywhere! When the phone rings, do you know who is calling before you answer or who sent the mail you just opened? When at your computer or on your smart phone, do you know who sent the email in your inbox? Do you know who created that pop-up message on your screen? All of these methods and many more are being used by scammers who are not what they may seem to be.
Whether you have a little money or a lot, you may be looking for ways to “put your money to work” and earn more. But your money could be lost if you get caught in an investment scam.
Law Enforcement Fundraisers
Most citizens hold law enforcement and public safety personnel in high regard and are willing to do what they can to support them, but solicitations, calls and mailings from groups claiming to have an affiliation with police or firefighters should be looked at carefully. These solicitations may have very little to do with local police or fire organizations.
Construction and mechanic's liens are remedies created by statute to ensure payment to contractors, subcontractors, tradesmen, laborers or material suppliers who have improved the property of others. Two of the most common types of liens are home improvement liens and motor vehicle repair liens. These liens provide home improvement contractors with a security interest in the homeowner’s property and auto repair shops with a security interest in the car owner’s vehicle.
Many people worry that a large portion of their life savings will go towards taxes when they die or that their assets will be tied up in probate. The living trust has been marketed as an estate-planning device that helps people avoid probate problems. While a living trust can be a valuable financial planning tool for some people, DATCP cautions consumers about misleading claims or exaggerations.
Scam operators – often based outside the U.S. – are using the telephone, email, text messages and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe. It is a violation of federal law to play a foreign lottery.
Two basics of money scams:
1.) Wiring money is like sending cash; once it is sent, you cannot get it back. Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it is nearly impossible to reverse or track the money.
2.) Never agree to deposit a check from someone you do not know and then wire money back.
Mortgage Assistance Relief Scams
The possibility of losing your home to foreclosure can be terrifying. The reality that scam artists are preying on desperate homeowners is equally frightening. Some companies say they can change your loan to reduce your monthly mortgage payment or take other steps to save your home. Others claim that nearly all of their customers get successful results and even offer a money-back guarantee. Unfortunately, many companies use half-truths and even outright lies to sell their services.
Phishing, Vishing, Smishing...
The term “Phishing,” was intentionally coined as a play on “fishing.” Fishing is exactly what the scam artists are doing – throwing you deceptive bait to see if you will bite and give up your personal information. Once they have that, scammers can make unauthorized charges to your bank account or credit card, or even open fraudulent accounts in your name.
Some prize offers and sweepstakes that come in the mail are scams. They use attention-getting gimmicks such as fancy certificates, official entry numbers or special envelopes in order to appear legitimate. No matter how they are packaged, these offers will cost you money.
Multi-level or “network” marketing plans are a way of selling goods or services through distributors. The plans typically promise that if you sign up as a distributor, you’ll receive commissions for your sales and those of the people you recruit to become distributors. Not all multi-level marketing plans are legitimate — some are actually pyramid schemes.
If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it is a robocall. Robocalls are annoying phone calls that come at all hours of the day or night. Robocalls use both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered pre-recorded message.
Tax Refund Loans
Promises of “Instant Refunds” and “Quick Money” might make you want to rush to your nearest tax preparation service to get your refund on the spot. Unfortunately, many of these fast “refunds” are actually loans called “refund anticipation loans” (RAL’s). When you receive a RAL, your tax preparer lends you the amount of your tax refund less the cost of interest and fees for the loan.
Ten Tips to Avoid Fraud
Crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. Here are some practical tips to help you stay a step ahead.
Text Spam - "Smishing"
With the growing popularity of texting, phishers are using it as another means to gather consumers' personal information. This is known as “smishing.” Text spam is particularly problematic as consumers often have to pay for the incoming messages, messages may have to be opened in order to be deleted, and texting back “stop” can invite more spam.
After one to five years of inactivity, Wisconsin businesses are required to turn over all unclaimed money, stock and safe deposit box contents to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR). This process relieves businesses from the expense and liability associated with carrying unclaimed property on their financial records. Most importantly, the process benefits Wisconsin residents because DOR makes an effort to reunite all rightful owners with their unclaimed property.
Wiring Money and Prepaid Money Cards
Money transfer services can be useful when sending funds to someone you know and trust – but wiring money can be incredibly risky when dealing with a stranger.
Same goes for prepaid money cards. Scammers insist on the use of money transfers and prepaid cards because it is like sending cash — they get the money quickly and you cannot get it back.