Update: I tracked down the scam artists that I wrote about below and reported on their activities in this Yahoo!Finance column.
Twice in the last month or so I’ve received a call from a recorded voice that says, “This is your last chance to lower your credit card interest rates! Press one to lower your rate now.” Since I always pay off my cards in full, and the caller doesn’t identify the financial services company, I sensed a scam. Twice I have pressed “1″ on the phone and gotten a live voice; when I said, “Can you identify the company you are from and give me your phone number?” I was immediately disconnected on both occasions. When I called back the number on the caller ID, a recording said the number was unassigned.
Next time I’ll try a little subtlety to keep them talking, and report them to the Federal Trade Commission. I didn’t find this particular scam under the FTC‘s list of “credit and loan phone scams,” but it could have been any number of things, such as identity theft or a credit consolidation scam, in which the firm offers to negotiate with your creditors. You pay the consolidation company, which never pays your creditors and disappears with your check.
Amid the recession, scams are multiplying. The FTC received 1.2 million consumer complaints in 2008. Identity theft accounted for one in four of those complaints. Watch out for work-at-home scams and foreclosure rescue scams, among others. For a primer on recognizing and reporting phone fraud, click here.
In the meantime, here’s that segment I did on the Weekend Today Show about some legitimate websites that can help you learn about and better manage your finances.