Establishing your credit after bankruptcy can be challenging-but it's an important part of the bankruptcy process, since good credit can provide many opportunities. Unfortunately, scam artists are all too willing to prey on those with shaky credit histories-sometimes at enormous cost to their victims.
The good news? Many of these scammers get caught.
One recent credit scam involved a 55-year-old
Porcelli's scam worked like this: his company would call potential customers, most of whom had low credit scores or weak credit histories, and offer them unsecured, guaranteed low-interest credit cards, according to a report released by the Federal Trade Commission.
Customers could have the credit cards for what Porcelli called a "one-time processing fee," which reportedly ranged from $160 to $500. Once customers agreed to pay, though, Porcelli would charge additional fees without explanation or warning, sources say.
But the deception went beyond unmentioned fees. Porcelli, unrecognized by any credit card company, allegedly offered credit cards that were already free to the public. And the cards he sent to his victims were fakes, and wouldn't work when customers attempted to use them, reports the FTC.
Naturally, people complained. But when they called Porcelli's company, they were simply offered a debit card-for an additional fee, of course. In order to use these debit cards, though, victims reportedly had to deposit all funds they planned to spend in an account ahead of time. And with each use, they were charged another fee.
The FTC estimates that more than 165,000 Americans were deceived by Porcelli, and got a court order forbidding him from running any telemarketing or credit enterprises. In addition, the FTC sought to have Porcelli refund the $12 million dollars he tricked his customers into paying.
This May, according to reports from the International Herald Tribune, Porcelli pleaded guilty to all 19 counts of fraud and conspiracy brought against him in criminal court. His sentence, which was announced in late October, includes 13 years in prison, $12 million in restitution payments, and a potential for five years of supervised release after his prison term is over.
The pattern of taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers in the credit industry is all too common these days. In order to protect your finances and your credit score (especially if you're trying to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy filing), it's important to know about the types of scams out there. If an offer seems too easy or too good to be true, it most likely is.