Watch for money-laundering scares, credit report 'fixes' - Albuquerque Journal

Watch for money-laundering scares, credit report ‘fixes’

Have you laundered any money recently?

You might be accused of doing so if you’re targeted by a scam that has resurfaced recently after making the rounds last year.

The scam centers on a call in which fraudsters accuse people of laundering money or committing some other illegal activity through their financial accounts. The end goal is to steal money or personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center – idtheftcenter.org.

The callers claim to be Department of Homeland Security agents and use scare tactics to make their accusations.

The bogus agent reads through a list of common banks until victims confirm the one they use. Once the caller has account details, the information can be used to drain the account’s funds or “to commit an array of different identity crimes in your name,” the resource center says.

Know that DHS and other investigative agencies do not call on the phone to demand sensitive information, nor do they solicit money over the phone.

If you get such a call, hang up. You can report it to Homeland Security’s inspector general at oig.dhs.gov/hotline or by calling 1-800-323-8603.

How to fix your credit: A recent lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice is a good reminder that people looking to repair their credit can be vulnerable to rip-off schemes.

The suit accuses Texas-based Turbo Solutions Inc., doing business as Alex Miller Credit Repair, of false claims in telling consumers it can remove negative information from their credit reports. The suit alleges the company charged an upfront $1,500 fee until a federal judge issued an injunction against the firm.

People hire credit-repair companies to help them investigate mistakes on their credit reports, which include information about your loan and credit card history and whether you pay your bills on time.

This information is sold to businesses that use it to decide whether to loan you money, offer you insurance or rent or sell you a home. Credit reports can affect how much you’ll pay to borrow money.

But a third-party firm that you hire on your behalf cannot get negative information “that’s accurate and timely” removed from the reports, the FTC says.

“Only time and a plan to repay debt will fix your credit,” the agency says. “You can improve your credit by showing over time that you can pay your debts on time.”

As for inaccuracies, you can dispute those, along with outdated information, for free by contacting both the credit bureau and the business that reported the information.

Those who are tempted to hire a credit repair company also should know that it’s illegal to be charged a fee before you get any help and the firm must explain your legal rights in a written contract.

The following are red flags, according to the FTC.:

• You’re told not to contact the credit bureaus directly.

• The representative does not explain your legal rights when telling you what they can do for you.

• You’re told to lie on applications for credit or a loan.

• You’re instructed to pay upfront.

• You’re told to dispute information in a credit report that you know is accurate.

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210, prompt 5. Complaints can be filed electronically at nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Watch for money-laundering scares, credit report ‘fixes’


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