Most people recognize that if they meet someone online and are soon asked to send money to a long distance acquaintance in a foreign country, they should beware. But the problem doesn’t start at the border and may in fact be the boy or girl next door, whether you meet them online or otherwise. What can you do to protect yourself?
As Licensed Insolvency Trustees, we regularly see people who have been the victim of a so called friend or romantic partner. It isn’t always someone you just met. You may even be living with them. Some scammers are patient and will let the relationship develop so you don’t suspect their true motive.
If someone asks you for financial or debt help, stop and think before you act. Do you have the money to help? Having room on your credit card is not the same thing as having the money to help. What are the chances you will ever see this money back? If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t lend it! And whatever you do, don’t borrow it to lend it to someone else or you may well end up needing debt help yourself.
If you do decide to lend a helping hand, make sure you document the loan. Even a simple promissory note where they sign acknowledging the amount of the debt, repayment and interest terms is helpful if they don’t live up to their promises. Make sure it is signed, dated and witnessed by a third party. Just asking for this simple document to be signed may be enough to discourage a scammer. Do not advance cash unless you get a signed receipt. A cheque or money order is better as it provides proof you advanced the money.
If someone has taken your credit card and used it without your knowledge or consent, report it immediately to the credit card company and the police. You may be able to have the charges reversed. Don’t share your PIN with anyone and don’t write it down. Check your credit card and bank statements at least monthly to make sure there aren’t unexpected transactions. Don’t loan your credit cards.
Credit is readily available to people who qualify and if someone can’t get a credit card, line of credit or other loan, there is probably a good reason why not. Most people we see who are in debt because they were helping friends or family, have loaned money for things that are not truly necessities. You shouldn’t be loaning money for luxuries. If an investment deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is … avoid it unless you can afford to lose the money.
If someone you care about is having financial difficulties, you may want to suggest they see Vine and Williams for information how to get out of debt. Better to send them to us than end up in our office yourself! Call 310-6398 to learn more.