Legitimate creditors should never use physical threats or verbal intimidation to get you to pay. If they do need to take you to court, you’ll get an official court summons. If that happens, do not ignore it, because a missed court appearance could lead to wage garnishment.
You’ve Been Scammed. What’s Next?
Fortunately, even if you don’t have the money to hire an attorney, there are a few steps you can take to try to recover your money.
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Your state continue reading attorney general’s office
- Pro bono attorneys and credit counselors
The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, is a government agency that exists to protect consumers and other businesses from anyone engaging in unfair business practices. They’re there to protect healthy business competition, and to protect consumers like you. Use the FTC’s fraud reporting page to tell them what happened, and they’ll educate you on the next steps.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, is there to ensure financial institutions like banks and lenders treat consumers fairly. They’re very aware that payday loan scams happen on a regular basis, and are working to end payday debt traps altogether. They have a dedicated page you can use to submit a complaint about a problem you’re having with a payday loan company.
In fact, some states outlaw payday loans altogether. To learn what’s legal in your state, work with your state’s attorney general office. The attorney general is the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer. E ach state’s submission processes will be slightly different, but if you Google “[your state] + attorney general office,” you should find the website where you can search for the complaint submission form.
Finally, there are a number of attorneys who may work pro bono (without a fee) if they feel they can successfully sue a payday lender and get a settlement. Try calling a local law firm to see if they think you have a successful case.
If none of these work, credit counselors will work with you on your finances to get a solid plan in place to get you out of the financial hole created by the scam.
Close Credit Cards and Bank Accounts
Finally, if you’re worried that scammers might have access to your accounts, close all credit cards and bank accounts that might be vulnerable.
Call your credit card company to report your card lost or stolen. This way, they’ll stop transactions and send you a new card with new numbers that the payday lender won’t have on their records. Freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus ?- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion ?- so that no new accounts can be opened in your name. Monitor your credit reports for accounts you don’t recognize, or any information that might be an error.
Contact your local law enforcement agency to file a police report. This will also alert them to the scam, and help them monitor how many people have fallen victim in their jurisdiction. There may not be much they can do to help you by this point, but they will be able to warn others of active scams.
Call your bank or credit union to ask about the account closure process. You may be able to do it online after transferring your existing balance to another account, or you may have to fill out a form and wait a few business days. Make sure you get written confirmation that your account has been closed. This will protect you in case there’s an issue down the road.