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FTC warns consumers of bogus credit card interest rate reduction offers

File photo
File photo

Monthly credit card bills can be a drag, especially when you’re feeling financially strapped.

Finding ways to lower those bills -- sometimes by simply calling your credit card company directly and asking for a lower rate -- can save you lots of cash.

So what about those companies that call with a “guaranteed” credit card interest rate reduction offer (for a small fee) and a promise to save you thousands of dollars? Most likely, it’s a deal designed to dupe you out of money.

According to a complaint by the FTC, three marketers behind the companies CSG Solutions and Second Choice Horizon targeted financially distressed people with illegal robocalls and telemarketing. Their goal, says the FTC, was to sell a bogus credit card interest rate reduction service.

For an upfront fee, these companies falsely guaranteed zero percent interest rates for the life of people’s credit card debt. They also promised thousands of dollars in savings. But, says the FTC, people never got the financial relief they were looking for.

Instead, the FTC alleges that most people ended up paying extra balance transfer and other fees that they weren’t told about, in addition to the companies’ hefty fee.

The companies also collected Social Security and credit card numbers, security codes, and other personal information over the phone. And, even when the people they called refused to use their service, the marketers used that personal information to apply for credit cards on behalf of those people, without their knowledge or consent. They also sent people invoices, charging them for those cards.

Here’s how to protect yourself from this type of scam:

  • The best way to get a lower credit card interest rate is to do it yourself for free. Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card and ask the company directly for a lower rate.
  • Don’t share your credit card, bank account or Social Security numbers, or any other personal information, with telemarketers who call you out of the blue. Once a scammer has your data, they can use it to commit other fraud against you.
  • It’s illegal for a company to charge a fee before performing a debt relief service, such as reducing your credit card’s interest rate.
  • Hang up on unsolicited pre-recorded sales calls. The best way to deal with a robocall is to hang up. You shouldn’t be getting these calls unless you have given the specific company that called you permission to make prerecorded calls to you.

Did you spot a credit card interest rate reduction scam, or get a robocall? Report it at ftc.gov/complaint.