Tax season is on us once again and many are thinking about how to make the best use of any tax refund to pay down their obligations. Be aware: scammers are out there and are plotting strategies to separate you from your hard-earned tax refund and your income. In a blog published September 18, 2012, we noted the increase in various scammers posing as "providers" of consumer debt relief. I recently reviewed a collection of news items relating to consumer debt relief in which the following headlines "jumped off the page":
- "Seller of Foreclosure Remedies Guilty of Fraud"
- "California Couple Arrested in Foreclosure Rescue Scheme" (the total loss to homeowners estimated at $120,000.00)
- "Promoters of Phony Debt Reduction Scheme Settle FTC Charges" (a settlement of $390,000.00)
The scammers involved in the very first headline noted above operated as Revelations Consulting and as "Foreclosure Club of America" and, preying on desperate homeowners in distress "up and down the East Coast", including homeowners in Georgia, promised that for a monthly fee, the scammers could keep them in their homes and the homeowner could later purchase the home at the foreclosure sale for a fraction of the amount owed to the lender!
Unknown to the homeowners who were no longer paying the mortgage but were paying a monthly fee to the scammers, the scammers forged the homeowners signatures and filed bankruptcy cases in the homeowner's name to delay any foreclosure by a lender so the scammers could continue to collect significant sums of money in monthly fees from the homeowners. Ultimately, of course, the bankruptcy cases were dismissed, so the scam collapsed and, after foreclosure, the homeowners were evicted from their homes.
What is the lesson to be learned? The tried and true rule of proposed deals has always been: "If the proposed deal sounds too good to be legitimate, the probability is high that the proposed deal may be illegitimate and either an illegal fraud or a deceptive advertisement or a claim prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and needs to be thoroughly checked and double-checked by you or your attorney before considering to sign up or pay any fee."
Stay tuned for a follow-up blog on "deceptive claims" prohibited by the FTC.