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.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Business

Stock photo
Union files charges against QFC, Fred Meyer over Black Lives Matter button ban

Grocery store workers condemn ban; QFC spokesperson says wristband options available to employees

Coronavirus compounding recycling calamity | Don Brunell

Daily medical waste is now totaling 240 metric tons.

At Fitness For Life, it’s all about empowering women

Nikki Staab opened her second location in Enumclaw last June.

How businesses and drones help restore scorched forestlands | Don Brunell

Drones can help plant trees 150 times faster than an experienced (human) tree planter.

Facebook purchases unused Bellevue REI headquarters

The companies will also each donate $1 million to the Eastrail

New nuclear power needs solution inclusion | Don Brunell

Even Washingtonians need nuclear power, and the state gets 70 percent of their electricity from hydropower.

The Green New Deal is incomplete | Don Brunell

Democrats need to focus on more than just CO2.

File Photo
LA Fitness to reopen all locations Aug. 10

Gyms will follow state guidelines

Council ponders allowing alcohol in downtown area

To keep the downtown economy rolling, Enumclaw is considering what other cities have already enacted.

Stock photo
New program to help ensure safe start compliance in restaurants, taverns

Launched by Public Health – Seattle & King County

Financial freedom in a post-COVID World | Few Minute Finance

Columnist Luke Miller, a pilot passionate about personal finance, introduces himself to Courier-Herald readers.

Local businesses discuss strategies to stay open

Sundays on Cole and monthly cruises are a lifeline to restaurants and retailers — but how long will it last?