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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2024 > Have credit-card debt? Beware of “relief” scams

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Have credit-card debt? Beware of “relief” scams

Whether the economy is robust or weak, some consumers will struggle to make ends meet or have other reasons to maintain a balance on a credit card

Legitimate debt-relief services exist, but debt-relief scammers often claim that they will help pay off a debt but instead take your money without providing any assistance.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the following are possible signs of a debt-relief scam:
  • Upfront fees: Scammers often want their fees upfront, before doing anything to reduce your credit-card debt. Not only is providing money upfront for this service unwise, it is also against federal law if the relief plan was offered via the telephone.
  • Unexpected calls: A caller unexpectedly contacts you and wants personal or financial information as part of an offer to settle debts.
  • Guaranteed solutions: Someone guarantees you a solution from a “new government program” for an extra charge or attempts to enroll you before reviewing your financial specifics.
How to lighten or eliminate credit-card debt
  • Make a budget. Creating a personal budget can help you discover both where your income is going each month and how to reduce future spending. This FTC worksheet can help you with the process.
  • Contact your credit-card company. Reach out to your credit-card company as soon as you fall behind on your credit-card bills. Use the call as an opportunity to explain your financial situation before a debt collector starts to call on you. You might be able to work out a payment plan with the credit-card company that you can more easily manage.
  • Seek legitimate credit counseling: If you continue to need help, check out legitimate credit counseling options. The FTC advises consumers to look for such services “at credit unions, universities, military personal financial managers, and U.S. Cooperative Extension Service branches” – many of which charge low fees. Be sure to ask how much the organization charges, the FTC says. Another option is a nonprofit credit-counseling service through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which you can reach at or 800-388-2227.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515