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If you feel smothered by your monthly bills, a call from someone who says they can reduce or eliminate your debts might sound like the answer to your problems. But in many cases, unscrupulous people are behind these calls. They don’t have any intention of helping you, but are very interested in taking your money. How can you tell if you’re dealing with a debt relief scammer? Because they ask you to pay them before they do anything for you.

That’s what the FTC and the Florida Attorney General said happened in a massive debt relief scam they were able to stop last month. The defendants told people they would pay, settle, or get rid of their debts. But they didn’t. Instead, they just took people’s money. Over time, people found out that their debts were not paid, their accounts were in default, and their credit scores were severely damaged. Some people even got sued by their creditors, or were forced into bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, scammers try to take advantage of those dealing with debt – but there’s legitimate help out there. You can talk to your creditors directly to negotiate a modified payment plan. You also can look for credit counseling. To find reputable help, start with a credit union, local college, military base, or the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service. And if you decide to work with a debt relief service, remember this:

  • A legitimate debt relief company won’t make you pay up front. That’s illegal.

  • No one can guarantee that your creditors will forgive your debts.

  • Your report can help stop a debt relief scam. If you spot one, tell the FTC.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
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August 06, 2019
Keep getting debt settlement offers in the mail. The letters have very vague compamy names and addresses. One today from MSDS PO Box 9106 Tampa FL 33624. I am getting many of these lately since my credit report shows some high credit card balances .So I believe the credit agencies are selling the info of people with high debt to these alleged companies. This should not be legal.
August 15, 2019
I have received a call saying I have a delinquent account from Wells Fargo. I was worried because I do have an account at Wells Fargo. I quickly checked my account and called and my account is in good standing. They continue calling saying it's a second account I opened in 2009 and based on overdraft it was closed and now delinquent. At the time I already had the same account I use now and never opened a second account (plus I had just turned 18 at the time so why would I open 2 accounts). They continue calling saying if i dont pay at least half of the $900+ I'll be sued. I dont know what to do. I never opened a second account but they had my information. I looked up the company name Lewis and Goldstein in San Diego but cant find anything. I then looked up the "Legal Administrator" name Edward Phillips, but cant find anything in San Diego,Ca. I looked up the number they called from and nothing. It's like it doesnt exist!How do they have my info
September 10, 2019
Does anyone know anything about a company called Debt Blue? They advertise debt consulidation programs to fix your credit
DC resident
October 04, 2019
Got a letter with similar content but the address is: Debt Relief Dept. 2093 Philadelphia Pike #2554 Claymont, DE 19703 phone number: (800)489-1339
I’ve got mail
October 30, 2019
I got the letter today 10/30/19. How do they get your info?
spokesman scam?
November 11, 2019
I answered a Craigslist ad to do some commercials on my phone for Credit Card Watch Dogs Llc about the credit card debt relief program. The copy includes phrases like “it’s a sign from god, test your faith and give the helpline a call.” Is this a scam?
June 08, 2020
Loan Scam: Called From 888-980-7697 They Left Me A Voicemail, Saying They Pre-Approved Me For An $55,000 Loan... But When I Called Them Back, There Had The Busy Signal Tone (No Voicemail & No Rrepresentative To Speak To)
July 02, 2020
have a credit advisor his name is shawn with credit relief of america , have told him at least 30 times not interested in him and he keeps caling ,what can i do
Smarty Pants
August 21, 2020
First thing to ask is whom they are calling. If they can't even name the person they are trying to reach, clearly it is a scam. Since the majority of Americans now have cell phones only (no land line), and cell phones are not listed, they don't have a "phone book" to source this information. They just call random (or consecutive) numbers.
September 24, 2020
I'm a notary and I believe a debt resolution company is engaging in fraudulent practices who do i report it to
Hayley M.
November 02, 2020
I received a letter today from MSDS. It had my incorrect last name. Clearly a scam. The format of the letter appears to be taken from Cigna's explanation of benefits template.
December 12, 2020

In reply to by Hayley M.

I have received this letter several times from the same “company”, MSDS and I just looked up the Cigna explanation of benefits, and it’s the exact same format! It’s a scam! I really hope people don’t fall for this!
December 12, 2020
Another debt relief scam; Barbara from the "National Relief Center" calls and either offers the possibility of a loan of up to 40K or enrollment in the "Alternative Debt Relief Program". It seems like everything targeted to low-middle income people with debt, especially unsolicited calls, are a scam.
February 09, 2021

In reply to by Amber

I just got a call from that scammer. she left a voice mail and asked that i call her back at 866-528-1218. I've included the call back number so that others can find it when they search and know she's full of it. also the original number that called me was +1 (712) 517-1136 No way there's some rando just offering me 40K for no reason. what a load of nonsense.
Mad in Virginia
December 14, 2020
It is December 2920 and I got a letter from them and I live in Virginia.
Ret. (DAV)
December 29, 2020
Was contacted yesterday by +*&% and the company wanted money up front. Said they are going to make sure my debt would disappear. Contacted my step-son and talked to him about it. He advised me to cancel the contract, when the Mgr. Called me I told him I was going to cancel, he hung up on me..
February 02, 2021
Someone please help me. This company keeps calling me, I block them and they just call from a different number, how to stop this, its driving me up the wall..
I hate calls l…
February 03, 2021
872-302-5983 (Illinois number) telling me I had 8K loan approved, recording. Multiple calls like this every day. So annoying. Putting this number here so people will recognize it as a scammer and not bother answering it.
February 04, 2021
Got a somewhat 'offical' letter claiming that I owe $17,000+. Threatened "unreasonable rate" if I ignore the situation. No return address anywhere; just "negotiations dept". Phone 888-705-2254 Do they really think we're that stupid?
March 25, 2021
*SCAM ALERT!!!! I received a similar letter from the Negotiations Department claiming that I owe $17,000+. There was no return address anywhere. Provided two numbers English Phone 888-705-2254 Spanish Phone 888- 705-2258 Do they really think we're that stupid?
Watch out - 52…
April 06, 2021
Got a call from a realish sounding robo woman claiming to be from a Covid debt relief program. 520-999-3978
August 01, 2021
I have a received two in the last several months and both of them say credit settlement negotiation department and they say you have to respond within 10 days to avoid unnecessary delays and it gives me a program example creditor balance 30,000 settlement amount 13,500 payment $375 from 12 to 36 months And there is no company name on this paper it’s sad these companies need to be shut down
August 20, 2021
same ... they called me and any button option will end the call?
September 21, 2021
I have been getting phone calls from a place called "US CENTER of DEBT RELIEF", but I looked it up and can not verify any addresses or the actual name, I see there is the Nation Debt relief program but no US CENTER of debt relief. They said something about an attorney to sound like it was legal but I could not verify any of thier numbers they called from 6 different numbers. Plus I never called or made contact with no one on any student loans, I never went to college. My son did but he never called anyone either. So I guess this is another scam. The address they gave also came up the same as a legit debt place under a different name. So I'm glad I checked these creeps out before I answered anything.