Consumer Watch: Avoiding debt relief scams

Scammers often prey on people who are stressed out about debt (KOKH).

Advice from an expert in fighting fraudsters: You can keep your trusting personality without falling prey to scammers.

Feeling like you just can't keep up with your monthly bills is stressful, and scammers like to take on the opportunity to take your money promising they can help.

Here is what actual debt settlement or debt relief companies do according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau-- These companies say they can renegotiate, settle, or change the terms of your debt.

They do charge fees.

However, some scammers contact you by phone or email and make promises they do not intend to keep.

“If someone contacts you, and says oh we have this great deal, Then, I am going to look at it sideways because I don't know them and they have contacted me,” says Elaine Dodd, with the Oklahoma Bankers Association Fraud Division.

Dodd educates people in Oklahoma on fraud prevention. She recommends opting for in person conversations over hiring companies over the web or the phone, but be careful no matter what you decide to do.

“If someone is pressuring you to do something right now, that is one of the biggest red flags of any scam,” says Dodd.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it's important to know these facts:

If you are looking to use a legitimate debt relief company, avoid companies that try to charge you fees before settling your debt. Avoid promises any specific amount of debt reduction. Talks about new government programs that can bail you out of credit card debt, should also send up a red flag.

It's also important to know that you don't need to hire a debt relief company to deal with your debt.

As a consumer, you are able to call your creditors yourself and avoid paying fees.

If you decide to work with one of these companies, you can contact Oklahoma consumer protection agencies to see if there have been any complaints against the company you are thinking about hiring.

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