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Attorney General Warns Vermonters Against Phony Debt And Mortgage Rescue Services

CONTACT: Sandi Everitt, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 656-1025

March 8, 2011

Attorney General William H. Sorrell is warning Vermonters about companies that are preying upon Vermonters in financial distress by offering useless or non-existent "assistance" with settling credit card debt or rescuing mortgages in foreclosure. "Many companies marketing these services to Vermonters are not licensed in Vermont and perform little or no meaningful service for the thousands of dollars they charge," Sorrell said. "While our office has aggressively pursued the unlicensed companies we learn about, many more are in contact with Vermonters each day. If you are seeking assistance with managing your debts or mortgage, make sure you are doing business with a company licensed in Vermont."

Consumers should be wary of companies that make big promises, but want payment up front for their services. Claims such as "settle your debt for half of what you owe" or "rescue your home from foreclosure" are rarely substantiated and occasionally completely false. Some companies may never contact creditors at all.

What you can do to protect yourself:

  • Verify licensure- Companies providing debt management or mortgage assistance services in Vermont need to be licensed by the Vermont Department of Banking in order to provide services to Vermont consumers. You can check to see if a company is licensed in Vermont online at the Vermont Department of Banking website, or by calling toll free at (888) 568-4547.
  • Decline payment up front- insist on paying only when you have proof the company is in fact working on your behalf.
  • Seek local assistance- Local agencies, such as the non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service of New Hampshire and Vermont and the Vermont Department of Banking's Mortgage Assistance Program, are resources that can help you understand and begin to manage your debts.
  • Contact CAP- The Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) can help you recognize the red flags before you send any money away. Contact CAP to check complaint histories for a business or with any questions you may have. You can reach CAP toll free in Vermont at (800) 649-2424, or at (802) 656-3183, visit CAP on the web at www.uvm.edu/consumer.
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