Anyone who’s ever dealt with debt knows it’s among the worst experiences life can offer. Money plays a central role in our lives. When we’re in the red, the countless decisions we make each day filter through a hopeless lens.
What’s worse, when we’re stuck in debt with no action plan or light at the end of the tunnel, our emotions can quickly get the best of us. They can even lead us to fall for financial scams we would have otherwise avoided.
Dealing with debt is emotionally exhausting, but it gets better when we focus on seeing things clearly. Steer clear of scams when plagued by debt-related turmoil with these steps.
Know Common Scams and Tactics
Scammers make a lot of money preying on people’s emotions. How much exactly? No one can know for sure, but for context, the massive India call center scam, in which victims were accused of tax evasion or fraud and ordered to pay a specific amount to resolve the matter, stole more than $300 million from at least 15,000 people. While that’s merely one example, scammers use common tactics to gain control of their victims. They often appeal to emotions like excitement or anger, and they especially target older people.
These strategies can be effective in any case, but particularly so when the victim has debt, and the offer is a way to get out of it. While legitimate companies such as Freedom Debt Relief offer services like debt settlement, scammers will often pose as debt-assistance companies, guaranteeing outcomes and selling debtors on services without trying to learn about someone’s situation. As such, the FTC warns against any company that promises to absolve your debt, or tries to charge you a service fee before they’ve resolved your debt for a lower amount (and you’ve agreed to pay it).
Read Industry Sites, Monitor Social Media Regularly, Know Your Vulnerabilities
Muddled emotions or not, ignorance is a separate offense. By staying abreast of new and trending financial scams, you won’t have to rely on your instincts to sniff out a shady interaction.
Heimdal Security routinely updates a great blog resource of top online scams. The FTC maintains a scam alert section as well. You can also get creative and bookmark other countries’ scam resources — here’s Australia’s scam watch, for example.
While you’re at it, you may as well set up Twitter alerts with various hashtags relating to financial scams and personal cybersecurity. Finally, you can take online tests that gauge your overall susceptibility to being scammed.
Gain Clarity Through Support Groups
A key reason why people have trouble dealing with their emotions and thinking clearly when in debt is because many go through the experience alone. Others may have already encountered strife in personal relationships or severely damaged them over debt-related rifts. Support groups like Debtors Anonymous give people an outlet to share experiences and learn from one another.
If more people sought support, and from people not in their family or close group of friends, there’d be a lot more calm and motivated debtors focusing on action plans. Instead, the anger, fear, grief, confusion, anxiety, depression and more builds. We as humans can only handle so much internally. Everybody has their breaking point, and while we’re on the path to self-destruction, we’re vulnerable to fall for a scam and get even further behind.
There isn’t one way to safeguard against financial scams, especially when emotions are compromised by debt. But having lingering balances clouding your reality doesn’t have to make you ignorant or vulnerable to trickery and deception if you don’t let it. Seek support from those in similar situations, understand how scammers operate and always keep pace with the latest types of scams and best-practice preventions.
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