In this technology-driven world we live in, there’s never any shortage of scams designed to separate us from everything from our cash to our identities. Attempting to keep up with the latest efforts of criminals is a full-time job. Still, the more we know as consumers, the more alert we can be. Especially when the efforts to take what’s ours comes in the form of a phone call. Here’s the latest scam going around and while it’s not especially original, it does serve as proof that some things never change. Lower rates is what we expect.
Folks call their banks and credit card companies every day in hopes of negotiating a better interest rate. The goal, of course, as we set off into this new financial environment is to ease some of the financial burdens we’ve shouldered in recent years, courtesy of the recession. So, naturally, when the phone rings and on the other end are promises to lower rates, it’s tempting to at least hear the caller out. That’s exactly what some fraudsters are hoping, anyway.
One company, “Credit Bureau Experience”, is on the federal government’s radar. The agency calls consumers and with a pleasant voice that sounds eager to please, promises the lucky consumer that if he meets two qualifications, his APR on is credit card will be lowered.
The two requirements are a balance of more than $2,000 and an interest rate that’s higher than 12%. Most people with credit card interest that high is often already looking to get lower rates. This can seem like a perfectly timed gift from above. Unfortunately, it’s not.
If you’re “easy” enough to convince to give the caller your credit card number and other information. There’s a good chance you’ve just handed that caller all the information he needs to max out your credit card within minutes of that phone call.
After all, you’ve given him your expiration date, the three digit number on the back of the card. And, of course, the card number itself. If you’re a bit resistant, the caller will ask you to hold on so that a supervisor can better explain the details of the offer. The friendly caller might even say,
I’m still new with the company and I don’t want to misguide you. So in my efforts to serve a purpose, let me get my supervisor on the phone so that he can be sure I’m giving you the proper information. I don’t want to make things more difficult for you.
You think to yourself, “What a friendly and helpful young man”. In reality, his “supervisor” is sitting next to him and ready to bat that home run.
Another scam that just doesn’t seem to lose its punch is the call from the companies. They promise the same thing, but will need to charge your card a fee that’s refunded to you within ten days. Or thirty days(or ninety days) of getting your rate lowered.
Those fees, the caller says, are used to cover the costs of negotiating on your behalf with the credit card company. Again, you have to give the caller all the information to charge your credit card. Sometimes, your card is charged the fee and you never hear from the company again. W orse, your card is maxed out within minutes of hanging up the phone.
Here’s the truth: there are no laws or rules that protect consumers from higher credit card rates. Your terms and conditions spell out exactly what you pay for credit with that company. That said, courtesy of the 2009 CARD Act, there are protections that keep higher rates being forced on you.
Your credit card company must give you 45 days before it raises your APR. Not only that, but new credit card accounts are generally “locked” for the first twelve months. It means the card network can’t raise your interest rates for that first year.
So what should you do if you begin receiving these calls? Fortunately, both the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stand ready to go to bat for you. You can do your part by getting all the information you can from the caller. While much of what they tell you might not be true, often, government agencies can detect patterns.
Note a phone number if it comes up on your caller ID as well as any phone number the caller gives you. Names, company names – any information at all can be helpful. Once you’ve done that, visit both the FTC.gov and CFPB.gov sites and submit your complaints.
If the caller calls again, tell the caller that you’d first like to check with the Better Business Bureau or the CFPB. Ensure it’s a legitimate company. Odds are, they’ll hang up and never call again.
Keep your guard up and your credit card information close – you can be your best advocate.