credit cards

Beware the scams

People with shaky credit can fall prey to shady credit card deals.

Some are downright dishonest, some are offering credit cards that really don't stand up when you put a spotlight on them.

And if you do sign up, be sure the company offering the deal is the right one (i.e., do they come directly from the card issuer?). If not, contact the card company to be sure the cards are authorized.

"Debt suspension" offers

How it works: Banks can offer it without having to use insurance companies. It is commonly offered as an extra with your card, and is generally sold as a way to keep your head above water if you can't make monthly payments because of a job loss or disability. But this sort of insurance does nothing to pay your bills while you can't -- it simply puts them on hold. While you are out of work, you can't use your card, and although interest is not being applied, the total balance is lurking in wait for the minute you get back to work.

Pay fees in advance

How it works: Some scammers will promise credit cards with some pretty good-sounding terms. There's just one catch: the only way you get that card is via a fee paid in advance, which they ask for to help with the paperwork or "to get you pre-approved" or some such line. Once you've paid the fee, you won't hear from them or be able to find them again. The main target of advance -fee scammers is a person who is desperate for a card with great rates and terms -- someone who can least afford to lose money.

Buy credit protection you don't need

How it works: Many people have been duped into buying protection in case their card is stolen and the thief runs up a big bill. But federal law already protects card users. Consumer liability is capped at $50, and it is rare to have a credit card company even ask for that money if you have promptly reported the card missing or stolen.



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