Don't Fall For It, Mom. It's a Scam!

AMAJYJ Woman Outraged by Scam Mail
Alamy

Moms will go to any lengths to ensure their family's well-being. Unfortunately, scammers know that too. So under the guise of helping, they'll go to equally great lengths to part moms from their cash. This Mother's Day -- and every day -- be on the lookout for these common scams that often target mothers and other caregivers.

Make Big Bucks Working at Home!

When money is tight, working at home while still caring for the family may seem like a great way to bring in a few extra bucks. While there are some legitimate work-at-home jobs, the ones that promise easy money for very little work are almost always scams. Be wary of any of the following:

  • You're asked to come up with an "up-front fee" (how about $32,450?!) to get started. Even if you need to acquire certain equipment to do the job, a legitimate work-at-home opportunity will let you buy it from an independent source. If the equipment is really so specialized that the only source is the company, then it shouldn't make you buy it as a condition of employment.

  • It's a requirement that you hand over your bank account details. Direct deposit can be a great convenience, but a legitimate company will either be willing to cut you a paper check or pay you through a trusted intermediary.

  • The job involves transferring money into and out of your account or depositing and sending out checks. In this era of free online bill payments, any legitimate company will have a cheaper way of moving its money around than cutting you a "commission" to forward it on.

Help! I'm Stranded in a Foreign Country!

Moms typically get the call when something goes wrong. That's why scammers look pull at the heartstrings and loosen the pursestrings.

Here's how it works: The scammer contacts a parent or grandparent via email, telephone, text, or social networking site and purports to be a relative stranded overseas or at the hospital and in need of fast cash. The scammer may even put a "policeman" on the phone to add a legitimate air to the situation. Just remember:

  • Hospitals are required to give emergency care regardless of a person's ability to pay. Even if an uninsured person was hospitalized, the hospital will let that person walk out upon completion of care with either a payment plan or financial aid paperwork. If there's a real medical problem, the payment can certainly be worked out later.

  • If someone is legitimately overseas and can actually contact you, that means he or she has a passport and some method of payment. The state department has a process for replacing a lost or stolen passport. Lost or stolen credit cards can be replaced around the world, and major issuers have emergency contact numbers for fast response and assistance. And also, American Express Travelers Cheques can also be refunded if lost or stolen and emergency cash provided if needed.

Let Us Help You Get Out of Debt

Moms regularly manage the day-to-day household budget and spending. If money gets tight and the credit card balances get out of control, it might be tempting to turn to a credit card settlement company for help. Unfortunately, there are a lot of shady folks operating them, and the worst among them will charge you an arm and a leg to do what you could do by yourself.

Watch out for the following bad behaviors:

  • It's generally illegal for a debt settlement company to require you to pay an up-front fee to negotiate with your lenders on your behalf.

  • If a settlement company makes you pay your money to them to have them pass it on to the credit card company, the "cure" may wind up worse than the disease. That could be a telltale sign that they are using a harmful strategy -- not paying your bills until the credit card company is willing to be more flexible in order to get something back. The problem is, it's your credit, not the settlement company's, that gets destroyed by those missing payments. Plus, you may end up owing taxes on the canceled debt.

Instead, before you let Mom get into deeper trouble by paying someone to make her credit even worse, instruct her to try the following:

  • Call the lender and ask for a lower interest rate. They'll more likely be flexible with customers who have a good payment history than with those who have missed several payments. They'd rather get their money back in full at a lower interest rate than wind up settling for only a portion later.

  • If Mom has already missed several payments, she's got just about the same negotiating leverage (and dinged-up credit) as if she had used a "slow-pay" settlement company. Make a phone call to the credit card company and work out a settlement payment plan directly with them on your own. It might work out better than using the settlement company, and certainly helps avoid the middleman settlement fees.

It's tough being a mom and juggling family and money. It's even tougher if you get tripped up in a financial scam that sets you back, especially when you only wanted to help. By watching out for the telltale signs and knowing how things really work, you can protect yourself and your family from getting burned.

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