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Don't fall for money savings schemes

We are all looking to cut expenses during the pandemic. Here is a look at how some offers to save money might actually cost you.

Be wary of offers to lower your credit card interest rates

It would be great if we could save on credit card interest rates, especially now that many of us are strapped for cash. But be careful of “guaranteed” interest rate reduction offers. 

The Federal Trade Commission said companies say that, for an upfront fee, they can guarantee a zero percent interest rate for the life of your credit card debit. That could save you thousands of dollars, but it ends up costing you more. You end up actually paying an extra balance transfer fee plus the upfront fee in many cases. Know it is illegal to charge a fee before performing debt relief services. 

Companies might also collect social security numbers, credit card numbers, security codes and other personal information. Schemers can then apply for credit cards in your name without your knowledge. Do not share any personal information with telemarketers who call you. Hang up on unsolicited, pre-recorded sales calls. 

Do not worry: You can still lower your interest rate and do it for free. Here is how: Call your credit card and ask directly for a lower rate. Look for the customer service number on the back of your credit card for the correct number to call.

Customer service representatives may not be calling to help you

Many of us are doing more online shopping as part of social distancing. But you should be wary if you get a call from a retailer saying your credit card has been charged a large amount for a purchase. The caller then gives you a customer support line to call if you did not make the order. 

Spoiler alert: It is not really a customer care hotline. A schemer is trying to relieve you of your passwords and personal information. Here is how to handle it: hang up. Look up the store’s customer service number on the product’s packaging or its website and call that number to ask questions. 

Just be careful if you use a search engine to find the company’s website. Make sure it the official website and not a look-a-like site a schemer created. 

A big red flag that it is not a legitimate customer service hotline is if the representative asks you to wire money, send gift cards or wants your password to resolve a problem. Also, check your credit card account. If you see a charge you do not recognize, dispute it immediately.

Avoid coronavirus schemes

Schemers continue to take advantage of the pandemic. Again, hang up on robocalls. Schemers are calling to sell coronavirus treatments and work-at-home offers to get your money and personal information. Ignore any offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Many products are being sold with no evidence they work. 

Plus, ignore emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It does not email people directly.

If you gave out personal information and suspect it might have went to an impostor, visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how to protect yourself.

Also, file a compliment with the Federal Trade Commission if you get suspicious calls, emails, texts or offers.