Google is NOT Calling You

Have you gotten a robocall at work, telling you that you have to take action or your Google business listing will be removed? Or maybe even marked as permanently closed? That kind of thing could be tough for a business — if the threat was real. But those calls are not legit—and not from Google.

The FTC just filed a lawsuit against Point Break Media and others, saying they made just those kinds of calls. According to the complaint, people who believed the calls and then spoke to a live telemarketer were told that they could avoid the problem by paying a fee (up to $700). When people paid this fee, the scammers then allegedly targeted them with offers for even more expensive services that would supposedly improve Google search results.  Of course, nobody making those calls is affiliated with Google. And businesses can — for free — manage their own Google business listing.

In this case, the scammers targeted music instructors, house painting companies, car dealerships, and other small businesses. They knew that appearing in online searches is crucial for those businesses, and threatening that connection with customers might make people act before stopping to think.

If you get a call like this, don’t press any buttons. Don’t call the number back, and don’t engage. That just encourages the scammers. The best thing to do? Immediately hang up the phone, and then talk about it with your colleagues or employees. Let them know that:

  • Scammers pretend to be someone you trust. They pretend to be connected with a company you know or a government agency
  • Scammers create a sense of urgency. They want you to rush and make a quick decision without considering options.
  • Scammers use intimidation and fear. It’s okay to hang up the phone and confirm what’s really going on before taking any action.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Share Financial Information with Your Spouse Now to Avoid Problems Later

It’s common for couples to share their financial lives but not the responsibility for managing household finances. It might be time-consuming for both of you to review your bills, as well as spending and savings plans each month. But if responsibilities unexpectedly shift due to a sudden illness or loss of a spouse, getting up to speed quickly could be challenging for the person least familiar with handling the family finances. Without the help of the person who has always handled the money, the one left in charge will face major headaches. 

Grab your partner now and get started sharing your family financial picture to better prepare for the future. 

Are you and your spouse equally ready to manage your household finances? Take our quiz to find out

We have six questions you and your spouse can answer together. The questions will help you figure out how prepared each of you is to handle family finances.

1. Do you know your family’s bank, credit union, and other account numbers and how to access those accounts? Include any safe deposit box, retirement accounts, pensions, etc. 

2. Do you know about all property and investments your family owns? Do you know whether you and your spouse are co or joint accountholders, and the names of beneficiaries? 

3. Do you know what money is coming in to your household? Including where it’s deposited? For example, where paychecks are deposited?

4. Do you know what payments your household is making? Think about: 

  • Mortgage or rent
  • Auto loan payments
  • Utility bills
  • Credit cards
  • Student loan payments
  • Cell phone
  • Property taxes
  • Insurance
  • And more!

5. Do you know when bills are due and how they are typically paid? Are they paid online, by automatic debits, by mail, etc.?

6. Do you and your spouse have a will, powers of attorney, and similar legal documents? Do you know where they are? Are they current?

Once you’re aware of the gaps in your or your spouse’s knowledge, you can work together to get on the same page. 

Get started in a few steps

  • Schedule time for you and your spouse to go over your financial picture. Start by taking an inventory of your family finances: income, expenses, debt, and investments, if any. It’s good to get in the habit of sharing this every so often as your financial picture changes or so it stays fresh in your mind. 
  • Maintain a list of account information and store it in a secure location. Make sure you both have access to online accounts. Create a list that includes account numbers, usernames, security questions, and passwords. There are many options available for securely saving the list digitally or printing it and storing it in a locked fireproof box. Remember to tell your spouse how to access the file and update it when necessary.
  • Have a plan. Make sure to plan for what will happen and who will manage your finances if one or both of you become ill or die unexpectedly. Consider creating a durable power of attorney so you will have someone in place to pay your bills or make financial decisions if you can no longer do it on your own

Losing your spouse is challenging on its own, and that stress multiplies if you find you are in the dark about your family finances. It’s worth taking time now to make sure you both will be equally prepared for the future. Download a printer-friendly version of this information to share with friends or clients.

This article by the CFPB was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Banks Encouraged by Regulator to Offer Payday Loans and That Is a Good Thing

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which is part of the U.S. Department of Treasury, has taken a big step forward in encouraging the lenders they supervise to feel free to get into the payday loan business.

More importantly the lenders are encouraged to lend to folks they otherwise would not have and report all activity to the credit bureaus which can help build credit scores.

The communication the OCC sent out to all National Banks and Federal Savings Associations said, “The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) encourages banks to offer responsible short-term, small-dollar installment loans, typically two to 12 months in duration with equal amortizing payments, to help meet the credit needs of consumers. The OCC is issuing this bulletin to remind banks of the core lending principles for prudently managing the risks associated with offering short-term, small-dollar installment lending programs. Banks should develop and implement these programs in a manner consistent with sound risk management practices and should align the programs with the banks’ overall business plans and strategies. Such strategies could include working with consumers who have an ability to repay a loan despite a credit profile that is outside of a bank’s typical underwriting standards for credit scores and repayment ratios. In all programs, banks should offer lending products in a manner that ensures fair access to financial services and fair treatment of consumers and complies with applicable laws and regulations. This bulletin is consistent with the OCC’s support for responsible innovation by banks to meet the evolving needs of consumers, businesses, and communities.” – Source

Getting a payday loan from a bank offers consumers access to similar products with a friendlier collection process and hopefully more underwriting to determine consumer ability to repay.

In fact the OCC says:

  • Loan amounts and repayment terms that align with eligibility and underwriting criteria and that promote fair treatment and access of applicants. Product structures should support borrower affordability and successful repayment of principal and interest in a reasonable time frame.
  • Loan pricing that complies with applicable state laws and reflects overall returns reasonably related to product risks and costs. The OCC views unfavorably an entity that partners with a bank with the sole goal of evading a lower interest rate established under the law of the entity’s licensing state(s).
  • Analysis that uses internal and external data sources, including deposit activity, to assess a consumer’s creditworthiness and to effectively manage credit risk. Such analysis could facilitate sound underwriting for credit offered to consumers who have the ability to repay but who do not meet traditional standards.
  • Marketing and customer disclosures that comply with consumer protection laws and regulations and provide information in a transparent, accurate, and customer-friendly manner.
  • Loan servicing processes that assist customers, including distressed borrowers. To avoid continuous cycles of debt and costs disproportionate to the amounts borrowed, timely and reasonable workout strategies should be used.
  • Timely reporting of a borrower’s repayment activities to credit bureaus. Borrowers should have the ability to demonstrate positive credit behavior, build credit history or rebuild credit scores, and transition into additional mainstream financial products.

Time will tell but it is nice to give consumers an opportunity to deal with an OCC regulated financial institution for this banking product.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

7 Easy-To-Start Side Hustles Ideas You Might Not Have Thought Of

These days it seems like just about everyone is talking about the need for a side hustle. As a result, you may be pondering what extra earning opportunities are out there for you. Unfortunately, when looking for options, you may run into some major road blocks such as the need for college degrees, large upfront investments, and skills you simply don’t possess. Similarly, while ride-sharing services are usually near the top of most people’s suggestion lists, the fact is that the life of a cab driver isn’t quite for everyone.

With all that in mind, I thought I’d highlight a few side hustles options that require only a few basic skills, little or no financial investment, and (in most cases) some form of third-party backing to help point you in the right direction. Additionally, each of these options are true side hustles in that can be done in your spare time should you choose.

Seven Side Hustle Ideas You Might Not Have Previously Considered

Help people move

Moving is a pain — but you may be able to make some extra money by making it suck less for some strangers. While helping a friend pack boxes, carry furniture, and load up a truck will likely only earn you some free pizza and beer, there are now services that will reward you for such tasks using some strange currency called “money.”

While you may be able to find moving help gigs on sites like Craigslist, another potential option is U-Haul’s platform. By signing up, you’ll be eligible to be listed on U-Haul’s site and have people book your help for a set number of hours. Moreover, there are numerous different services you can offer, including packing, unpacking, U-Box delivery, and driving. You can even offer cleaning services to help customers leave their old homes in good shape. Given the variety of jobs, low barrier to entry, and built-in market that U-Haul commands, this could be a smart weekend side hustle gig for you.

Assemble furniture

On a similar note, how many times have you purchased a piece of furniture and proceeded to spend multiple frustrating hours attempting to assemble it? If you’ve mastered the art of Ikea furniture building, turning those bragging rights into cash is now an option.

TaskRabbit is a site where customers can hire people to perform a number of different odd jobs (including moving help, incidentally). However, last year the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea actually purchased the platform and now also uses it to offer its official assembly service. Like with U-Haul offering, one of the cool things about this service is that it’s advertised on Ikea’s website. The downside is that Ikea has set pricing based on merchandise value — something that a few assemblers working under the old Ikea system have complained about. Still, if you know your way around those little hex wrenches and can decode Ikea’s helpful/not-so-helpful direction guides, this could be a great way to make a little extra money.

Become a secret shopper

In my lifetime, I’ve actually been on both sides of something called “secret shopping.” Simply put, secret shoppers are sent to various establishments undercover in order to help the business’s corporate office ensure that each location is performing to par. Not only was I very familiar with the idea of secret shoppers from my time managing a movie theatre but, for a spell, I also did some mystery shopping myself.

Many moons ago, I signed up for a secret shopper service called GAPbuster — now GBW, apparently. I remember that, after completing some simple online training, I was able to sign up for secret shopper gigs at retailers like Radio Shack and restaurants like McDonald’s. Each of these jobs had a timeframe in which you needed to complete your shop, instructions about what to ask or what to purchase, and a listing with the amount of compensation each gig was offering. While I never got rich off of assessing McDonald’s locations, I did manage to score some free food (they’d reimburse you along with your payment when you submitted your receipts and report) and pocket a extra few dollars.

While I can’t speak to how GBW operates now, it looks like they do still offer mystery shopper services. Additionally, companies like MarketForce, Best MarkSecond to None, and Intelli-shop seem to be accepting applications. To bring it full circle, MarketForce even offers Movie Industry Field Associate certification that will allow you to perform trailer checks, promotional checks, and more at cinemas around the country.

Deliver food

Like I mentioned, when most people think about side hustles that require little skill or investment, Uber and Lyft are often among the first services that come to mind. Although both ride-sharing services do offer significant opportunities to drivers, the idea of transporting drunk strangers probably doesn’t appeal to everyone — myself very much included. That said, you may still be able to earn money with Uber without having to deal with airport runs and late-night clubbers.

Uber has continued to roll out their UberEats program, which enables customers to order take out from a number of restaurants and have it delivered right to their door. This is a win for local businesses as it allows them to offer delivery without hiring employees of their own and its convenient for hungry patrons who can track your progress just like they would a regular Uber car. Of course, UberEats is also great for side hustlers like yourself who are capable of picking up an order from one location and bringing it to another.

In addition to UberEats, there are other third-party food delivery services you can sign up for as well. These include Postmates, GrubHub, Caviar, and others. Overall, this could be a good option for those who who are interested in a driving-based (or cycling-based, in some cases) side hustle that doesn’t involve having other humans ride along with you.

Walk dogs

Speaking of people, if humans just really aren’t your thing, maybe you’d prefer pets instead. Just as Uber and Lyft have been successful in linking up drivers and riders, a couple of growing services are aiming to ensure that man’s best friends are well cared for as well. One such service is Wag, which is currently looking for dog walkers in various cities across the country.

With Wag and similar services, you can view one-time dog walking gigs in your area, apply for them, get accepted, and (most importantly) get paid to take people’s pets for a stroll while they’re away. Something to note is that you will need to have some prior experience with animals and some basic commands in order to have your Wag application approved. Additionally, Wag isn’t the only pet service site out there as Rover also offers on-demand dog walking as well as pet sitting, dog boarding, and more. Needless to say, if you love dogs and extra pocket cash, this path could be a winner.

Write ebooks

Before you skip over this one, let me assure you of a few things. First, ebooks aren’t the same as printed books and they don’t need to be any specific length. Secondly, contrary to what you may assume, you don’t need any kind of publisher in order to release an ebook. In fact, you can upload and sell your work on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform and others without even spending a penny.

Now that I’ve presumably convinced you that selling ebooks isn’t such a far-fetched side hustle idea after all, the question becomes, “What are you going to write about?” Once again, you may be surprised at just how many options there are for what you can write about. From non-fiction titles sharing your knowledge on a topic your passionate about to creating fantasy worlds and novels, there really are few limits. In fact, did you know that the best-selling book series 50 Shades of Grey originally started out as Twilight fan fiction? Obviously you’ll want to avoid infringing on other people’s intellectual property when publishing your own ebooks but, other than that, there are plenty of ways for your to write to a niche, find an audience, and maybe even make a little extra money.

Sell your creative services

So perhaps you’re not a writer after all — that’s ok! But how do you feel about editing instead? Copyediting is just one of thousands of creative services you can offer on sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and others.

To be fair, for this specific example, you will need to have some prior skills. That said, some of the other gigs you can sell have less to do with your technical abilities and more to do with just who you. For example, with the ever-growing popularity of podcasts, there’s been a demand for smooth-voiced intros that can be customized to meet the podcaster’s needs. Meanwhile, in some cases, the fact that you have time on your hands could lead you to create a successful gig. Heck, just look at this list of Fiverr gigs involving pranks and challenges (just don’t do anything too dumb #PSA). My point is that it’s worth at least looking to see if there’s any creative service you can offer in order to turn your hobbies and skills into an actual side hustle.

Choosing a side hustle isn’t always as easy as others make it seem. Between time constraints, skill requirements, and monetary investments, some would-be options just won’t cut it for most folks. That said, hopefully the ideas above are more in your league and utilizing one of the various services here can help you monetize your hobby, make use of spare time, and help you earn a little extra cash.

This article by Kyle Burbank first appeared on Money@30 and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

401k Loans: Borrowing Your Money

Dear Dollar Stretcher,

We’re going to buy a newer car. We’ll need to borrow about $12,000 to pay for it. Our friends have suggested that the best way to finance it is by ‘borrowing’ from our 401k plan at work. They say that the rate’s cheaper than what we would pay somewhere else and that way we’d be paying ourselves the interest. That sounds too easy. What’s the catch?

Lucy isn’t alone in wondering about 401k loans. Pension plan experts say that 90% of the plans allow for loans. It’s estimated that about 20% of 401k participants are paying back a loan. She’s also not alone in feeling confused in trying to decide if a 401k loan is a good idea.

What’s the best way to compare this loan to borrowing from somewhere else? The first thing that most people do is to compare the interest charged on the loan. The rate is set by the plan administrator. The law says that it needs to be a ‘reasonable’ rate. For our illustration let’s say that the rate is 2% less than the rate that Lucy’s dealer would charge. Good deal, right?

Not so fast, my spendthrift friend. Let’s think about this. When you’re a borrower you want lower rates. But when you’re the lender you want higher rates. This time you’re both. So we’re back to our original question. Is this a good deal or not?

We still need another estimate to complete our analysis. We need to know how much we expect our money to earn in the 401k plan if we don’t borrow the money. This isn’t likely to be an easy or precise estimate to get, either. The earnings will depend on how the money is invested. And each plan has different investment options available. Some are very conservative and only offer guaranteed type investments with a lower rate of interest. Other plans are heavily invested in the stock of your employer. Depending on the performance of that stock, your return can be terrific or terrible. And don’t expect your employer to give you an estimate of what the return will be. Way too much legal risk for that to happen.

Ultimately, you’ll probably have to take a look at what’s happened in past years, take a guess about the future and go with your instincts. Let’s suppose that you think that the earnings will be about 3% higher than the loan interest rate. So how’s that important?

That 3% lower earning means that we’ll have fewer dollars in the 401k plan at retirement. You can estimate how much it will be, if you want to. Suppose your loan, like Lucy’s, was $12,000 and you expected to pay it back in 5 years. By borrowing the money yourself, you’ll earn 3% less on that $12,000 or $360. Next year you’ll have some of the principal paid back so the difference will be less. If you multiply the $360 by half the length of the loan you’ll be about right. In this case that’s 2.5 x $360 or $900. So when the loan is paid back your 401k account will be $900 smaller than if you didn’t take out the loan. So what?

Well, that $900 will grow before you retire. There’s an easy way to estimate what it will be worth at retirement. If the money earns 9% it will double every eight years. So if you’re eight years from retirement, you will have $1800 less (2 x $900). If you’re 16 years from retirement, it will double again. We don’t know how old Lucy is. But she can figure out how many years she has until retirement and then double the lost earnings for every eight year period until she reaches retirement.

If this is hard to picture, just take a piece of paper and make two columns. In the first column mark down your age, your age + 8 years, + 8 more years, etc. For instance, if Lucy were 45, her’s would read, 45, 53, 61 and 69. In the second column list the lost earnings next to your age. Then double it for every age you have listed. It would be $900, $1800, $3600 and $7200.

At retirement, Lucy would take between 5% and 10% of the $7200 annually. So her decision today could cost her between $360 and $720 each year during her retirement.

How does that compare to the lower car payments today? We said that she’d be saving about 2% on the $12,000 loan. She’ll probably save about $200 per year.

Now Lucy has a framework to make a decision. She can save a little in interest now, but the price is a lower income at retirement. In some cases, you may find that the interest you’d pay on the 401k loan is greater than the rate of earnings you expect. Then you’d have more money in the account at retirement if you took the loan.

There are a couple of other things that Lucy needs to know about 401k loans before she drives off in that new car. The law specifies that the loan be repaid in less than five years or when the 401k account is closed. One exception is that loans for a primary residence can be repaid over 30 years.

This requirement can have important consequences. If you leave your job, you can expect to close your 401k plan. That means that you need to repay any loan balance. You might have to turn down a job offer with a different company because you can’t repay the 401k loan. Worse yet, you might have the whole loan due just when you’ve lost your job to downsizing. Talk about bad timing!

You do have the option of not paying it back. After all, it is your money. But the consequences are pretty ugly. First, you’ll pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. Then add ordinary income taxes on the ‘distribution’. In Lucy’s case, if she had $10,000 left and had to default, it would cost her $3800 if she were in the 28% tax bracket.

Depending on your circumstances, a 401k loan could be a blessing or a belated curse. Many financial planners urge you to consider all the options before using them. Thanks to Lucy for asking a good question. Let’s hope she enjoys that new car!

This article by Gary Foreman first appeared on The Dollar Stretcher and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Should I Go With a Debt Consolidator Even Though Dave Ramsey Says Not To?


Dear Steve,

I’m 13,000 in credit card debt. The rates range from 18-21% apr. I need to look for work by June because my other job will soon be ending. I’m able to meet the minimum payments but the interest fees are so high that I’m afraid I’ll be stuck paying for the rest of my life.

I want to hire a debt consolidator. Dave Ramsey advises against doing this, but aren’t there some companies that are helpful like or Crown Financial?



Dear LAGal,

This isn’t really anything more than a math problem. I don’t give a crap what Dave Ramsey has to say about what you should not do. Let’s see what the math says.

Let’s look at the overall picture here.

It appears you are not able to save money and may not have an emergency fund to fall back on since you are just limping along.

Your monthly income/expenses are pretty tight if $13,000 is creating a hardship. If it is not creating a hardship then pay more each month and also make sure you are saving at the same time.

A long-term repayment plan may leave you at higher financial risk considering the inability to save and how a big surprise expense can sink the plan. Look at my calculator to determine how much a payment plan can cost you in lost retirement savings.

There are some major approaches to dealing with your debt. I would advise you look at my online calculator to compare each one.

To address the issue you need to decide if your focus is to try and repair the past or repair the future. If you want to do better moving forward, get some savings under you, and be less at risk for default then I would suggest some solution that would either eliminate your debt entirely, like bankruptcy or consider debt settlement if you are not worried about your credit.

Here are some past articles that will help you to see this in a new way. Read this, this, and this.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Operators of Student Loan Debt Relief Schemes Settle FTC Charges

The settlements stem from an FTC-led enforcement sweep announced last year

The defendants in two student loan debt relief cases have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission claims that they charged consumers illegal upfront fees and falsely promised to help reduce or forgive student loan debt burdens.

The settlements with Strategic Student Solutions and Bloom Law Group are part of a coordinated federal-state law enforcement initiative targeting deceptive student loan debt relief scam announced by the FTC in October 2017, called Operation Game of Loans.

Strategic Student Solutions

The FTC has obtained a settlement with an unlawful debt relief and credit repair operation for violating the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Credit Repair Organizations Act after they allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers by falsely promising to reduce or eliminate their student loan debt and offering them non-existent credit repair services.  The settlement also resolves the FTC’s action against relief defendant DG Investment Properties LLC.

According to the complaint, individual defendant Dave Green and his companies – Strategic Student Solutions LLC, Strategic Credit Solutions LLC, Strategic Debt Solutions LLC, Strategic Doc Prep Solutions LLC, Student Relief Center LLC, and Credit Relief Center LLC – preyed on consumers with student loan debt by falsely promising to reduce their debt or payments through enrollment in student loan forgiveness or other programs. The defendants also falsely promised to apply monthly payments to consumers’ student loans and to improve credit scores and histories in addition to making other false claims and charging unlawful advance fees.

The defendants are permanently banned from debt relief and credit repair activities and from making misrepresentations or unsubstantiated claims related to financial or any other products or services. In addition, the order includes a monetary judgment of more than $17 million. After the defendants turn over substantially all of their assets, worth more than $4 million, the judgment will be partially suspended due to their inability to pay the full judgment.

Bloom Law Group (Defendant in FTC v. A1 DocPrep, Inc.)

The FTC has also obtained a settlement with Bloom Law Group PC (also doing business as Home Shield Network and Keep Your Home USA), one of the defendants who participated in a scheme that allegedly defrauded thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars. The FTC charged that the Los Angeles-based operation took millions from consumers through unlawful student loan debt relief and mortgage assistance relief schemes.

According to the complaint, the defendants falsely claimed to be from the Department of Education, and promised to reduce borrowers’ monthly payments or forgive their loans. The FTC also alleged the defendants targeted distressed homeowners, making false promises to consumers that they would provide mortgage relief and prevent foreclosure.

Under the settlement order, the defendants are banned from debt relief and telemarketing activities and from making misrepresentations or unsubstantiated claims related to financial or other products or services.

The order includes a judgment of more than $9 million, representing gross revenues of the defendants’ debt relief and MARS operations, minus refunds. Due to inability to pay, the order  partially suspends the monetary judgment after the defendant turns over all of its assets, $54,000.

Litigation continues against co-defendants Homan Ardalan, A1 DocPrep, Inc., and Stream Lined Management.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final orders in Strategic Student Solutions was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered the order on May 29, 2018.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Asked to pay by gift card? Don’t.

Has someone asked you to go get a gift card to pay for something? Lots of people have told us they’ve been asked to pay with gift cards – by a caller claiming to be with the IRS, or tech support, or a so-called family member in need. If you’ve gotten a call like this, you know that the caller will then demand the gift card numbers and PIN. And, poof, your money is gone.

Scammers are good at convincing people there really is an emergency, so lots of people have made the trip to the Walmart or Target or CVS to buy gift cards to send these callers. And scammers love gift cards – it’s one of their favorite ways to get your money. These cards are like giving cash – and nearly untraceable unless you act almost immediately.

So here’s the most important thing for you to know: anyone who demands payment by gift card is always, always, always a scammer. Try this gift card buying exercise out at home – especially when anyone asks you to pay with a gift card:

Q: Should I buy an iTunes, Google Play, Steam, Kroger, Walgreens, BestBuy, Amazon, CVS, Rite Aid or ANY OTHER gift card for someone who demands payment? For any reason?

A: NO.

Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. If you’ve bought a gift card and lost money to someone who might be a scammer, tell the company who issued the card. (The contact info might be on the card, but might require some research) Call or email iTunes or Amazon or whoever it was. Tell them their card was used in a scam. If you act quickly enough, they might be able to get your money back. But – either way – it’s important that they know what happened to you.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Complaint snapshot: An analysis of debt collection complaints


In our latest Complaint Snapshot, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection examines complaint trends, with a focused look at complaints about debt collection. 

Since July 2011, the Bureau has received approximately 400,500 debt collection complaints, which is 27 percent of the total complaints we’ve received. In-depth analysis of debt collection complaints helps us to understand the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collection. 

Some common themes emerged in our analysis of these complaints. For example, some people reported that there were debts on their consumer credit reports but that they did not have prior written notice of the existence of the debt. Some people stated in their complaints that they felt uncomfortable disclosing personal information to people who called asking for it because they were not sure whether the person calling was a legitimate debt collector. People also complained about the communication tactics companies used when attempting to collect a debt. 

Overall complaint trends

In addition to focusing on debt collection, the Snapshot also examines complaint trends more broadly. 

“Credit or consumer reporting” was the most-complained-about financial product or service category in March 2018. Thirty-seven percent of the approximately 30,300 complaints received in March were about credit or consumer reporting. Debt collection was the second most-complained-about consumer product. It accounted for 27 percent of complaints. The third most-complained-about financial product or service was mortgages, accounting for about 10 percent of complaints.

If you have a problem with a consumer financial product or service, you can submit a complaint online or call us at (855) 411-2372, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. We provide complaint-handling services to people in more than 180 languages and to those who are deaf, have hearing loss, or have speech disabilities. You can also read our answers to common financial questions or call us if you simply have a question about a financial product or service.

Debt collection resources

If you have questions or face problems with debt collection, the Bureau has a wide range of tools and information online, including answers to common debt collection questions and sample letters you can use. These resources can help you understand what you can do when you are contacted by a debt collector.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

I Need an Honest Answer if I Should Settle My Debt


Dear Steve,

I have private student loan date mid-2014 around $8000.00 dollar. My college made payment arrangements and I was paying just 25 dollars a month now they reported credit bureau saying accounts charge off and transfer to a collection agency. I spoke to the collections agency and they want to settle the loan about 50%.

My question now is should I accept or decline this offer? If reject this offer what could be consequences? I am really confused what should I do. Expecting honest answer, please.



Dear Krishna,

Depending on what state you live in the Statute of Limitations may have expired and you could use that as a defense if you were sued over the old debt.

However, debt settlement is a process where to parties come to an agreement on how to resolve an old debt. The amount of the agreement is between the debtor and creditor. There is no set amount.

If you do decide to settle the debt the amount you pay should be reported as paid and the amount that is charged off / forgiven can be reported as a bad debt. That reporting should extend for 7 years from the date you last went delinquent on the debt which sounds like 2014.

The amount of debt forgiven may be treated as taxable income to you if you are not insolvent. You can get more information on that here.

You can either attempt to negotiate with the collector yourself or hire someone to deal with the creditor and make the process as smooth as possible. Another advantage of hiring an experienced professional is they will have a better idea what the current typical amount that specific creditor is settling for.

Steve Rhode
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This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.