With one of my four bankruptcy law offices in Anderson, Indiana, I was interested in several alerts issued by the Better Business Bureau of Fort Wayne, Indiana as a public service to the northern Indiana communities.

One alert had to do with consumers getting calls on their home or cell phones, telling them their debit or credit card has been suspended.  Of course, the customer is asked to provide an account number.  Do not reply, advises the BBB. Another form of this scam has the caller pretending to be from Ball State Federal Credit Union.  The voice asks call recipients to provide their sixteen-digit credit card accounts. Rule of thumb:  NEVER give out your credit card number unless you initiated the call to a number written on your statement or your credit or debit card itself.

In a totally different scammer approach, consumers received unsolicited mail offers to obtain certified copies of real estate property deeds for a fee of $59.60.  The company has a Washington, D.C. address, but orders are to be sent to Illinois.  Don’t respond to this, BBB urges.  In any event, a certified deed is not something that homeowners need to have. For most reasons you might need a deed, a simple photocopy is sufficient.

In a third scam type, individuals receive a letter stating they won funds in a sweepstakes, and that they will receive $150,000 after they cash an enclosed Purdue Credit Union cashier’s check to pay for processing fees. These checks are fake. If you receive a questionable check, BBB says, you should contact Purdue Credit Union’s Danna Puterbaugh at 765 497 7447.

As a bankruptcy attorney, I am especially outraged at scams that prey on innocent people, many of whom are already struggling with difficult financial issues and may be trying to stave off bankruptcy.  While job losses, medical bills, divorce, and foreclosure may make bankruptcy the only option for financial survival, I hate the idea that identity theft and scams like these have the capacity to make people’s lives even more difficult.  Being a realist, I understand, as BBB of Fort Wayne explains, that “with the economy on the minds of Americans, easy money can sound very exciting.”  In my earlier blog, Worse To Worser – Adding Identity Theft To Bankruptcy, I stressed that being a victim of Identity theft can, in fact, be “exciting”, but not in any way you’d choose for yourself.

Not only can the additional credit problems created by identity theft and scams add to individuals’ financial woes, there are predators that specifically target victims who have filed bankruptcy (see Beware of Predators – Before, During, And After Bankruptcy).

Remember, the purpose of the bankruptcy system is to provide relief from overwhelming financial problems too severe for people to handle on their own.  As a professional who’s spent almost twenty-five years doing my part to help that safety net work, it angers me no end to learn about criminals who prey on others.  If those predators can’t help, at least they should be asking for the proper kinds of help for themselves!