Have you gotten a phone call in which a recorded voice promises to reduce your credit card interest rates? If you have, you're just one on many. (If you haven't, just wait your turn.)
Simply put, these calls are scams. They're either promising you something they can't deliver, or they're looking to charge you big money for something that you could just as easily do yourself, or they're out to get your personal financial information to commit fraud. Or maybe all of the above.
What the scammers say
According to the Federal Trade Commission, interest rate reduction scammers typically promise:
They have special relationships with credit card issuers, which puts them in a position to persuade the banks to lower interest rates.
They can save customers thousands of dollars in interest.
They can get interest rates lowered so much that customers will be able to pay off their credit card debt 3 to 5 times faster.
The lower rates are only available for a limited time, so you must sign up quickly.
They aren't doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, though. You have to pay for this service.
What the scammers do
Once they get your money, your personal information or both, some scammers will just disappear. Others will go ahead and contact a credit card company on your behalf and attempt to negotiate a lower rate.
But here's the thing: There's no "special relationship" for them to draw on. They're no more likely to get an interest rate reduction than you are if you asked the credit card company yourself. And you can ask the credit card company yourself. You don't need to pay anyone to do it. Just call the number on the back of your card and ask whether you qualify.
How to stay safe
If you get this kind of solicitation, guard your personal and financial information:
Don’t give a caller any compromising personal information, such as your Social Security number, birthdate or address.
Don’t give a caller financial information. Keep account numbers and passwords private.
You can help keep other consumers from being conned by reporting scammers at 877-FTC-HELP or visit this site.
Looking to reduce your interest rate the right way?
Perhaps the worst part of the scam is that they're offering to do something you can do for free on your own. If you're in debt, consider taking these steps:
Call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate. If your first request doesn’t work, ask to speak to a supervisor.
Transfer your balance to a lower-interest rate card. If your credit is decent, you could lower your interest rate by transferring your outstanding balance to a card with a lower rate.
Consolidate. If your credit card debt is spread among several cards, think about taking out a consolidation loan to roll all of your payments into one. Not only is this more convenient, but you should also be able to get a lower interest rate.
The takeaway: Interest rate reduction sales pitches might seem appealing, but many people offering these services have ulterior motives. Don’t fall victim to a scammer, and be sure to keep your personal information safe; after all, it might be your most valuable tool in getting your credit card interest rate reduced the right way.