Tough times bring out the worst

The worst economic downturn in generations has created a perfect storm of financial shocks: evaporating investments, foreclosures and job losses. To add insult to injury, a new generation of thieves increasingly targets the dwindling bank balances of struggling Washington residents.

The worst economic downturn in generations has created a perfect storm of financial shocks: evaporating investments, foreclosures and job losses. To add insult to injury, a new generation of thieves increasingly targets the dwindling bank balances of struggling Washington residents.

“As if people weren’t suffering enough from a bad economy, scammers are picking the pockets of the unemployed and others who absolutely can’t afford to lose more money,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said.

Among the threats: Bogus employers who steal your cash and personal information, empty promises to save your home, worthless grant application assistance and expensive debt relief programs that leave you in worse financial shape.

“This isn’t the time to let emotions drive your decisions,” McKenna warned. “Chasing a false ray of hope can drop you into a black hole. There are real experts who can lend a guiding hand – and their assistance is free.”

The Attorney General’s Office has created a new Recession Survival guide on its Web site at www.atg.wa.gov/economy.aspx to help Washington residents avoid schemes and access legitimate resources to survive the recession.

McKenna said his office is seeing a surge in marketing by questionable loan modification programs. Some of these businesses are operated by former subprime mortgage brokers or real estate brokers who charge thousands of dollars up front and promise to work with your lender to lower your mortgage payments. A homeowner can often receive the same sort of deal for free by contacting their lender or a HUD-approved housing counselor.

The Washington State Department of Financial institutions requires that any provider offering loan modifications be licensed as a loan originator, mortgage broker or consumer loan company. If you choose to go with a loan modification business, verify it has the necessary license by searching the DFI Web site at www.dfi.wa.gov or calling 1-877-RING-DFI.

Cash-strapped consumers should also be wary of for-profit organizations offering to help clean up their credit, especially if the business asks for money up front, promises to repair a bad credit report or quickly recommends bankruptcy as a solution. If you’re looking for help, it’s important to understand the differences between debt consolidation programs, which may help you pay off your debt, and debt negotiation plans, which can be risky.

Bogus job advertisements continue to a problem. Avoid any job that requires you to pay money up front or involves sending money by wire transfer. The Attorney General’s Office has seen an uptick in “mystery shopper” scams, in which job-seekers are hired to work undercover as customers. Often, their first assignment is to shop Moneygram, Western Union or one of the retailers that offer wire transfer services. Victims are sent a fake check, told to keep some as their pay and wire the rest. The check ultimately bounces, leaving the victim out hundreds of dollars.

For links to legitimate programs to help homeowners, job seekers, students and businesses, see www.atg.wa.gov/economy.aspx.

More in Business

Carbon fee hurts businesses and families | Don Brunell

A carbon tax would raise over $610 million in its first year and jump to $761 million by 2023, but the added cost from the initiative over 15 years is projected to be 57-cents a gallon.

The Russians are indeed coming | Don Brunell

Russia is now the world’s top wheat producer.

Firehouse Pub: slight change of address but atmosphere remains the same

It was quite the project, renovating the pub’s new home.

Enumclaw’s QFC debuts home delivery service

The first order is free, but other orders will come with a charge.

Boeing’s venture into hypersonic jets | Don Brunell

The company’s come a long way since nearly crashing the company with its first attempt at supersonic flight.

Avoiding trouble while Tweeting | Don Brunell

Your social media can hurt you or help you when looking for a job.

Lampson beating odds for family-owned businesses | Don Brunell

According to The Family Firm Institute, only about 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation and fewer than 12 percent are still viable into the third generation.

Much-needed dose of Yogi Berra’s wisdom | Don Brunell

We need less sarcasm and to alleviate the vilification of one another that we constantly witness in the news and on social media.

Trade wars hit state’s cherry growers hard | Don Brunell

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion of Chinese imports to punish China for its alleged predatory tactics toward American technology companies.

Columbia River treaty talks too vital to ignore | Don Brunell

The United States and China are currently renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty.

Bellevue company patent infringement win gives small investors hope | Don Brunell

Until recently, our courts have been little help to patent owners.

Podiatrist opens Enumclaw practice

Go see Dr. Bock at 853 Watson Street North, Suite 100.