There are only a few things that make me really angry, and scams targeting people who already have their share of financial troubles is near the top of the list. As a debt consolidation lawyer offering bankruptcy services in Indiana for close to 25 years, I've seen any number of schemes and scams. Of course, there have been even more than the usual number of scams because of the economic downturn. The ones around Indiana have included:
- Free credit report scams
- Foreclosure prevention scams
- Nigerian 419 scams
- credit rebuilding services
I've got all my colleagues (the good bankruptcy attorneys in the Indiana Zuckerberg bankruptcy law offices in Anderson, Bloomington, and Indianapolis, along with the Columbus bankruptcy lawyers in my offices there) on the lookout for scams. In fact, part of my mission in writing Bankruptcy Indiana is to alert readers and Indiana bankruptcy clients about scamsters and about looking for financial help in "all the wrong places."
If you suspect a scam, it's a good idea to check with the Indiana Attorney General's office. One scam, started a few years ago, but has recently been happening here in Indiana all over again is the "Shopping Spree" Scam. The original scam consisted of consumers receiving phone calls promising them shopping sprees at Walmart worth $200-$500 in exchange for shopping at Walmart and reporting on the experience. The real motivation was getting the bank account numbers of the victims.
The thing that really gets to me as a lawyer for individual bankruptcy in Indiana, is that when people are already worried about their financial situation, it's very easy for scamsters to sidetrack them into thinking they can earn valuable prizes that can help them avoid filing bankruptcy in Indiana. Instead, they become victims of a scam and that hurts their situation even more! That's why, every time I hear about a new scam, I immediately issue a warning. With so many people out of work and desperate for help stopping foreclosure on their homes, the last thing anyone needs is losing money on a Walmart shopping spree scam.
Anyway, the latest version of the shopping spree scam has a new twist to it. An envelope arrives in the mail bearing what looks like a state unemployment agency seal. Inside is a check and a letter. The letter invites you to be a "mystery shopper" at Sears or Wal-mart, saying you'll be part of a state-funded program to help the unemployed make money. You're told to deposit the check in your bank, then spend some of the money at the store, and keep some for your "work". The check is counterfeit, but your bank doesn't discover this immediately, and you're on the hook for everything you spent at the store! As any debt consolidation lawyer can tell you, now you're even deeper in debt!
AARP explains that there do exist legitimate "mystery shopper" jobs. But, for the real thing, you get paid after you do the work, not before! The message that I've been trying to convey for the past three years in Bankruptcy in Indiana is this: At the very first signs of financial trouble, it's best to seek experienced financial advice. Looking for help in all the wrong places (sometimes even Wal-mart is the wrong place!) is going to do you any good - and it may do a lot of harm!