As it is National Consumer Protection Week, I thought I’d use the occasion to give a shout out to David Segal, an intrepid New York Times reporter who investigates egregious acts of consumer abuse in a bi-weekly column called “The Haggler.” Sadly, Mr. Segal has no shortage of hair-raising material.
Mr. Segal’s February 23 column particularly resonated with me. In January, he was contacted by a robocaller offering an opportunity to lower his credit card interest rates. Mr. Segal was immediately suspicious of the offer and decided to investigate the company. It turns out that the company is run by a Florida couple who, according to Mr. Segal, control other outfits that were sued by the attorney general of Arkansas for violating various laws, including the Telemarketing Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.
Mr. Segal is understandably outraged that the company continues to find new ways to operate, but he shouldn’t be. Stamping out individuals bent on preying on unsuspecting consumers is akin to playing Whac-A-Mole – you stamp them down and they often instantly appear elsewhere.
HPF’s HOPE Hotline has received more than 30,000 reports of alleged mortgage scams in the past three years. Many of the scamsters are repeat offenders – they get charged and then reemerge doing business under a different name. They know how to circumvent the legal system and are quite sophisticated marketers. Indeed, when Mr. Segal asked the robocaller where he was located, the person knew to terminate the call.
So take a bow, Mr. Segal, for doing your part to protect consumers in advance of National Consumer Protection Week. And if you want to help stamp out the rapidly growing legion of mortgage scamsters, tell your readers to call the HPF HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673) to report suspected mortgage fraud. Reported scams are put in a database that is accessed by various law enforcement agencies. And let your readers know that, if they are in need of FREE loan modification counseling, they can get it simply by calling the HPF HOPE Hotline.
Anyone who demands upfront fees for loan modification counseling is not worth listening to. Especially if the person making the offer is a robocaller.