After A Scam Is Discovered Comes The Debt!
Many Victims Then Have To Face The Truth About New Debt!
As a financial fraud victim, you have to face many hard truths after your scam!
One of them is debt!
You became involved in a scam …
- You did not want to be scammed, but it happened – you were lured in, groomed, and manipulated expertly.
- You did what the scammer asked – in most cases, this meant that you sent them money.
- In many cases you did not have the money you sent to the scammer – you borrowed it:
- You got advances or cash from your credit cards
- You took out new loans
- You re-mortgaged your home
- You borrowed it from friends and family
- You leveraged other assets to get money
- Now you have to deal with this reality – you owe money, potentially a large amount!
Now That The Scam Is Over
You now have to deal with your real financial situation at the same time as you are going through grief and the trauma that was left behind.
We know that the financial aftermath from your scam can be as devastating as the emotional side – both contribute to your trauma and will make it hard to recover. A successful recovery program must guide you through both sides. SCARS understands this!
There are ONLY Three Options for you at this point:
- Ignore it – stay in denial Denial is a refusal or unwillingness to accept something or to accept reality. Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something, refusal to acknowledge something unpleasant; And as a term of Psychology: denial is a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality. and pretend it will all just go away
- Procrastinate – you know you have to deal with it, but just not today
- Confront it – take control of the situation and work through each point of pain until they are all under control and you have a clear financial path forward
Obviously, Each Victim’s Situation Is Different
Each scam victim did different things to satisfy their scammer. From credit card debt, to loanshark loans, to home mortgages. Regardless of the details, they cannot be ignored forever. Besides, trying to live in denial will always make things worse – potentially much worse – much depends on the country where you live and the kinds of debts.
SCARS supports scam victims worldwide. Because of this, not all information applies in every country. Make sure that you understand what is appropriate, possible, and safe for your country.
You Are Going To Face It!
Dealing with your debt will come after you have the rest of the scam under control, but it will not wait for long. Payments will have to be made, legal decisions need to be considered.
In our experience, that average victim will delay from one month to a year before really taking firm control of their finances and debt. We can’t tell you what is right for you, because we are not financial professions, and because each person’s situation is somewhat different. But it is important to talk with professionals that can help you sort through this.
The SCARS FOUR STEPS
As a victim, there will be FOUR major steps to your financial control and recovery:
Control The Damage
Confront The Debt
In each one, you are going to be facing many difficult processes and emotional challenges, but it becomes easier the more you plan. Having a step-by-step plan helps reduce stress and further trauma. The single biggest value in all this is a sense of regained control and certainty – when you have a plan, you have a sense of what the future will bring, even if it is not great – at least you know and can deal with facts. Uncertainty can make it much harder to both recover control and work through your emotional pain.
STEP 1: Regain Control
The first step in regaining control is to know what your real dept is – how much, what is due and when. This is basic debt management & planning.
Start by listing every debt that you have, along with expenses and obligations on a piece of paper (or spreadsheet). You have to learn what is really out there. Include everything, even how much you plan to spend of food, utilities, and more – all of it must be accounted for – or you will set yourself up for surprises.
Catalog Your Debts
First, create a list of all your debts. You should have done this already in STEP 1 above – this can include money owed on:
- credit cards
- student loans
- auto loans
- medical bills
- personal loans
- all other financings
- Other obligations that must be paid on a monthly or regular basis
The list of your debts should include:
- the name of the lender
- type of loan or obligation (category)
- total amount owed
- interest rate
- minimum payment due each month
You can also include the contact info of each lender, and any other pertinent details (i.e., terms, fees).
Make sure your info is up-to-date and accurate.
STEP 2: Control The Damage
After you really learn what you have to face, begin the painful process to talking with every person or business or government that you owe money to. Yes, you have to do this.
This will serve many purposes, from buying you time to sort through it, to stopping or delaying debt collection activities. You will ned time to recover emotionally too, and adding the financial issues will be hard. Do what you can to give yourself space and time to recover, but don’t hide from it – what you hide from will come back to haunt you.
Make sure you prioritize your debts carefully – talk to all of them, but give the most attention to those that are going to be the worst for you.
Make a list of your creditor and go through them one by one and inform them that you are the victim of financial fraud (they don’t need the details) – but they will require the police report number – make sure you have it.
Ask them about:
- In what ways can you delay payments
- Can you change payment amounts or extend the loan repayment
- Do they have programs for partial or complete debt forgiveness What Is Forgiveness?
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
- Can they help you in debt planning and creditor management
- Did you have any type of insurance on their debt
STEP 3: Confront The Debt
This is where you have to face the music – as the saying goes. You have to face your reality and make choices about the direction you take.
3.a – Debt Management
After you have done the above and you have the answers to those questions, you are ready to lay out a realistic debt management plan.
There are two basic ways to work a debt management plan:
- Do it yourself – you plan and then work the plan
- You hire a service provider (third-party) to do it for you
You can do all the work yourself and maintain personal control over it all. This has many advantages, but may also be difficult if you are still dealing with the emotional grief and trauma of the scam. It may make more sense to work with a debt relief or management provided to help keep it all strain, and potentially even handle the payments for you – this makes it much easier for you to avoid the additional trauma of having to speak with debt collectors – they do it all for you.
In the sections below we will explore Do It Yourself Debt Management.
You may wish to start by talking to a credit counseling service. Here is what you can expect when talking to one – click here.
3.b – Debt Elimination (Bankruptcy)
Depending on the types of debts and what you learned in STEP 2 – you may be able to obtain forgiveness or write-off of some or your debts, but probably not all. You may have to consider bankruptcy.
We cannot advise you about this choice or the details that will be specific to you. For this, you will need to find a licensed bankruptcy attorney or solicitor to explore these options.
Here is a directory service to help you locate them: Best Bankruptcy Lawyers Near Me – Attorney Ratings | FindLaw
However, before you go there, make sure you have fully explored all of your other financial options first. Once you jump into bankruptcy all other options become unavailable.
STEP 4: Debt Management
If you are going to try to manage your own debt, you will need a plan.
4.a – What is a Debt Management Plan?
A debt management plan (or DMP) is a way to get yourself out of debt and rebuild your credit and control your life, all while making monthly payments that fit your budget. They can be extremely beneficial for someone who is in over their head with debt and needs help getting a handle on it.
While participating in a debt management plan, you’ll also learn how to manage your money better so that you can avoid falling into debt again in the future.
How It Works
A debt management plan is a system that allows you to pay one monthly payment that covers all of your included debt. Essentially, once your creditors agree to the plan, you make a single payment each month to the facilitator of your debt management plan. It is not a loan, however, and your monthly payment is divided and dispersed to your creditors every month.
When you request a debt management plan and your creditors agree to it, they will often lower your interest rate and waive any late fees that you currently have. They will also agree to a set monthly payment that has your account paid in full in no more than five years. If you cannot do this in 5 years, then bankruptcy may be the right option.
While you’re in a debt management plan, your credit accounts will be closed and you will not be able to use those accounts for any new charges. You will also not be strongly discouraged from opening any new lines of credit, as creditors offer you perks (reduced interest, waived fees) with the idea that you’ll focus on paying off your debt and not creating new debts.
Yes, there can be a cost, but it is not much and it will vary depending on the amount of debt you’re repaying and the state/country where you live, and the specific service provider. If you work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency, there will likely be two fees: an ongoing monthly fee and a one-time set-up fee. Monthly fees may be a percentage of your monthly DMP payment, or a flat fee (again depending on where you have residence).
With many of the better providers, the average monthly fee is around US$24, with a maximum of $50 (depending on regulation, country, and type of entity.) The average set-up fee is $33, with a maximum of $75. Fee waivers and fee reductions are available for consumers with hardships – just ask your credit counselor if you qualify.
How You Sign Up For One
Your best, and easiest possible approach may be to work with an accredited nonprofit credit counseling agency. They’re not all the same though. Do your homework and search their Better Business Bureau or other national rantings to find a reputable company.
Contact the one you’re most interested in working with and schedule an appointment for a complimentary counseling session. This will allow you the opportunity to discuss your financial situation with a credit counselor, review your options, and see if a debt management plan is right for you.
Remember, they are not YOUR financial planners – they have a mission that may be different than yours – we encourage you to talk with a real financial professional about all your possible options.
If you’re not opposed to putting in some long hours on the phone, you can set up your own debt management plan. If you’re having trouble keeping up with your payments, creditors may be willing to work with you. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive the same interest rate reductions and other benefits if you go it alone. It is a question of trust and how much effort your creditors have to put in to work with your directly.
Making the decision to create a debt management plan can be a responsible way out of debt, but it is not right for everyone. If you’re considering one, talk to a credit counselor about your options.
SCARS cannot recommend any specific credit counseling company. However, in the United States, we recommend that you consider NCFF Members in good standing with solid Better Business Bureau ratings (A+).
4.b – Will A Debt Management Plan Work For You?
Here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to use a debt management plan:
You Must Have A Source Of Income
No repayment option will work for you if you don’t have some form of income. When a nonprofit credit counseling agency administers a DMP, they are obligated to ensure that the plan is affordable and works as part of a balanced budget.
If you barely have the income needed to manage your basic essentials (food, shelter, etc.), then debt repayment should not be your top priority and a DMP is unlikely to be a good idea until you can increase your income. This is where bankruptcy comes into this again.
However, if you have a steady income, but are just struggling to make your debt payments balance against the rest of your budget, then a DMP may be a great choice for you.
A DMP is likely to reduce most or all of your high-interest credit card rates, allowing more of your monthly payments to go towards the principal. This will allow you to pay down your debts quicker. In fact, most DMPs are repaid within 3-5 years.
Missed payments don’t disqualify you from a potential DMP. In fact, there are usually no credit requirements for a DMP, so unlike many consolidation loans, if your credit has suffered from missed payments you can still qualify for a DMP. Creditors will also often bring your account current after you have made a certain number of consecutive payments through your DMP.
Luxuries & New Debt
You probably will not be able to do that.
Accounts included on a DMP are usually closed or frozen by the creditor. Because the age of your accounts is a factor in most credit scoring models (and older accounts are better for your score), this means that your credit score may fall immediately after starting a DMP. If you need your credit in premium shape for a major purchase (home, car, etc.), then you may want to wait before starting a DMP or look into another option, like a low-interest consolidation loan. We do not suggest this for scam victims – we suggest that you forget normal life as it was for a while, and stay laser-focused on financial survival.
Your Credit Score / Credit Quality
If your score is already low because of missed payments, then a DMP may be a good option. The truth, however, is that any option (besides potentially debt settlement) can be a good way to help rebuild your credit, providing that you:
- Make payments consistently each month, as agreed upon, and
- Pay off your debts in full.
The DMP’s single, consolidated payment and reduced interest costs can certainly help you rebuild your credit over time, but that only works if you’re able keep making your payments straight through to the end.
Help Staying Accountable
Scam victims frequently avoid dealing with challenges. The DMP actually is a good way to reduce your stress because it reduces the number of people you have to deal with. It simplifies your life by giving you a financial advocate that you can really work with – assuming that you qualify.
One unique benefit of using a DMP through a nonprofit credit counseling agency is that it comes with continual support and assistance from a team of trained financial educators and counselors. If you’re self-directed and only need the boost of a lower interest rate and consolidated payment, then a low-interest consolidation loan may be what you need. But if you feel you might need a little extra support to give yourself time to heal and to set and stick to your new goals, then a DMP may be the way to go.
Ultimately, anyone with more credit card debt than they can comfortably handle can potentially benefit from a DMP. It is simply a matter of deciding whether or not the benefits of a DMP meet your unique needs.
4.c – Creating Your Own Debt Management Plan
There are plenty of organizations that can help, but if you want to do it yourself and you like handling things on your own?
You may be able to do it – but you may also be foolish to try. We cannot tell you the answer here. But you must be realistic.
Doing It Yourself
You should consider doing it yourself ONLY if:
- You are able to handle the additional emotional load of managing your finances and dealing with creditors – this is not easy! But can help you maintain control. Or,
- You live in a country where debt management services are not available.
Those are the only two reasons to do it yourself. Do not let pride or shame Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self; withdrawal motivations; and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness. enter into this. If you are in trouble over your debt, do what is best for you.
By being organized, diligent, and having determination and commitment, you can become debt-managed by yourself through your own debt management plan.
4.d – Step by Step
The following is a step-by-step approach to creating a debt repayment program and implementing it on your own.
4.d.1 – Create Your Plan
When it comes to figuring out the best tactic, two popular debt repayment methods are the:
- “Avalanche” debt payoff method, or
- “Snowball” debt payoff method
No matter which strategy you choose, you’ll want to make the minimum payments on all your debts. You want to create a plan you can manage and maintain based upon your income and otherwise, your credit will suffer.
AVALANCHE DEBT PAYOFF METHOD
With the avalanche debt payoff method, you focus on paying the debt with the highest interest rate first or as a priority. Once that “mother of debts” is paid off, you take the money you have been putting toward it toward the debt with the second-highest interest rate, and so forth.
In other words, triage – stop the worst bleeding first!
A major benefit of this method is that you’ll save money on the interest. The downside is that because it can take a while to pay off that first debt, you may find yourself struggling to stay motivated. Also, it depends on the patience of other creditors.
SNOWBALL DEBT PAYOFF METHOD
There are two major differences with the snowball debt payoff method.
With the avalanche method, you pay based on the interest rate, with the snowball method you pay based on the balance.
The other major difference is that you start with the smallest amount, then work your way up. Canceling one debt at a time – smallest to largest, but again, this depends on the willingness of your creditors.
A big advantage of the snowball debt method is that you’ll enjoy success earlier. It is quite a satisfying feeling to pay off your first debt, and if you do it earlier in your plan, chances are you’re more likely to keep the momentum going and this also becomes therapeutic. A downside is that you may be paying more in interest on your loans over the long term.
4.d.2. – Prioritize Your Debts
Rearrange your debts in order of which one you’d like to tackle first. After doing some analysis, figure out how much money you’ll be paying on each date, and the target date to pay it off. That’ll help you stay organized and on track.
FOCUS ON A SINGLE DEBT
No matter which repayment method you decide on, focus on reducing one debt at a time. it will help you make greater progress, and it will make it easier to track and manage your debts.
Plus, because you are managing one debt instead of spreading your efforts among several, you can pay more of the principal. In turn, you’ll save more on interest. But remember, it depends on what your creditors will access – but you start with your plan and then work on getting the agreement of your creditors – keep the horse in front of the cart!
4.d.3. – Stop Accumulating More Debt
Try to close or freeze Trauma Freeze Response:
While fight-or-flight is the better-known way humans respond to certain stressful stimuli, the additional less known third response "FREEZE", was not as widely studied until this last decade. Freezing as a response to a threat might seem effective, a sort of “playing dead” in the face of danger; however, in humans freezing manifests as an inability to communicate, react, make decisions, or take any action of self-preservation or defense. your credit card accounts while you are in debt payoff mode.
While you’re paying off debt, you definitely want to avoid accumulating more debt. Otherwise, you may find yourself feeling like you’re taking a step backward, ending up at the beginning. Your motivation and stress matter!
Note: Closing a credit card could negatively impact your credit. That’s because your balance-to-limit ratio, or credit utilization ratio, is affected when you close a card. Your credit utilization ratio is the outstanding balance on all your cards against the maximum limit on all your cards combined.
Generally, if the spending limit on all your cards is $30,000, and you have a balance of $9,000, your credit utilization ratio is 30 percent. (The lower your credit utilization ratio the better. A general rule of thumb is to keep it under 30 percent.) When you close a credit card, depending on the limit on that particular card and your total outstanding balance, your credit card score could get dinged.
If you’re not quite ready to close out your credit cards with debt, many credit cards now have a “freeze card” option where you can momentarily hit the “pause” button on your card.
4.d.4 – Cut Expenses
When paying off debt, see where you can cut back on your expenses. Lowering living expenses means more money can go toward your debt.
A few pointers on slashing expenses:
DEFINE ALL OF YOUR EXPENSES
If you don’t already have a budget, figure out what your expenses are. This includes everything from rent, bills, monthly subscriptions, gas, insurance, food, entertainment, and shopping.
GO FOR THE BIG EXPENSES
Your three major spending categories are housing, transportation, and food. If you can save on any one of these three spending areas, you can save larger amounts of money each month.
GO FOR THE EASY EXPENSES
Easy wins on slashing expenses include recurring expenses. This includes car insurance, bills, and monthly subscriptions. Contact the company and see if there are any discounts, or negotiate for a lower rate. You may be able to save by enrolling in autopay or making a yearly payment instead of a monthly one.
Another way to gain easy wins is to nix stuff you aren’t using. For instance, if it is been a while since you last stepped foot in a gym, cancel your gym membership.
Be sure to check out all our budget guides for thorough advice on slashing common expenses.
4.d.5 – Can You Add Income?
See if there are any growth opportunities at your current job or other income to earn more, this can include starting or increasing the payout of your retirement or investment accounts (if you have any.) If you have been a valuable employer, either by helping the company save money, make more money, make things more efficient, or reducing stress on your team, use that as leverage for a raise or a bonus.
Outside of your job, look for ways to earn more money by way of a side job. There are plenty of ways to make extra money, such as tutoring, pet sitting, ride-sharing, freelance writing, consulting, on services like www.FIVRR.com, and so forth.
Commit to any extra cash you receive toward your debt. This includes not only money from a raise, bonus, or side job, but cash gifts and small windfalls that come your way.
4.d.6 – Understand Your Credit Rating Or Status
This does not apply in all countries. But if it does, try to find out what your rating is now. Even though you may be in survival mode, it is important to do your best to come out of this with as good a credit rating as you can.
ORDER A CREDIT REPORT
In the U.S. paying off your debt affects your credit, it is important to keep tabs on your credit when paying off your debts. You’ll also want to check your credit report to see if there are any inaccuracies in your personal information, payment history, and debts listed. Debts that are unpaid and have been sent to a collection agency also usually show up on your credit report. You’ll be able to see which agency the debts have gone to.
If you need to file a dispute, you’ll need to contact the credit bureau agency directly. The credit bureau typically has 30 days to to investigate your dispute.
You can order a credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re able to order one from each of the three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—during a 12-month period. While your credit report is free of charge, there’s typically an additional fee to see your credit score.
THE OTHER NIGHTMARE
Another reason to look at your credit report is to see if your scammers stole your identity and created more debt for you! Click here to learn more about Protecting Your Financial Identity as a scam victim.
MONITOR YOUR CREDIT
This depends on the country where you live, but while paying off your debt, monitoring your credit will help you see how your debt payoff efforts are boosting your credit. As you pay off debts and lower your balances, your score typically goes up.
There are a handful of free credit monitoring services that allows you to monitor your credit and check your credit score for free (see what may be appropriate for you.) Many popular money management apps Applications or Apps
An application (software), commonly referred to as an ‘app’ is a program on a computer, tablet, mobile phone or device. Apps are designed for specific tasks, including checking the weather, accessing the internet, looking at photos, playing media, mobile banking, etc.
Many apps can access the internet if needed and can be downloaded (used) either for a price or for free.
Apps are a major point of vulnerability on all devices. Some are designed to be malicious, such as logging keystrokes or activity, and others can even transport malware.
Always be careful about any app you are thinking about installing. and credit card companies also allow you to check your credit score.
You’ll also want to get a credit report to make sure your payment history, balances, and so forth are reflected accurately and are what you think they are. As you can get a free report every year from each of the three credit bureaus, you can stagger receiving them throughout the year. (The pandemic has made this more flexible, but check to be sure.)
4.d.7 – Contact Your Creditors & Negotiate With The Collection Agencies
While this may feel intimidating, remember: It is in both party’s best interest to get your debts paid off. When talking to a rep from the lender, you can work with them on a repayment schedule, and possibly negotiate for a lower interest rate or pay a lower amount than what you originally owe.
Before giving a call, have as much information on hand as possible. Know that it usually requires more than a single call and could take a series of calls before you come to an agreement. Patience is key.
Talking to creditors and collection agencies is hard, but essential. For any debts that have gone to collection agencies or processes, you’ll need to contact the agency or entity directly to create an agreement on a payment plan. You’ll also want to be prepared to make an offer. At the end of the day, lenders want to have the debt cleared, so they may be open to accepting less than the original amount owed.
MAKE IT EASY TO PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS
While paying off debt requires a lot of effort, there are ways to make it “easier,” so to speak. Besides negotiating on the outstanding balance, a few things that could help you make payments on time:
SET UP AUTO-PAY
The fewer steps you have to take when paying off your debt, the easier it will be. Set up auto-pay on all your debts. That’ll ensure on-time payments. But be careful – auto-payments will happen automatically once they are set up – if you think you may have some momentary challenges, it may be better to keep manual control of this.
MAKE EXTRA PAYMENTS
Besides making more than the minimum payment each month, aim to make an extra payment each month. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, aim to make weekly payments. However, keep the long view in mind. Do not over-pay if you may need money for something else. It is better to stick to the plan even it you are impatient – success is more important than speed.
SEE IF YOU CAN MOVE THE PAYMENT DUE DATES
If you’re having problems paying on time, contact your lenders immediately to see if you can move the dates payments.
4.d.8 – Consider Debt Consolidation
There are several ways to consolidate your debts:
- TRANSFER YOUR DEBTS TO A ZERO PERCENT TRANSFER CREDIT CARD – If you have strong credit, you might qualify for a credit card with a zero percent introductory interest rate. If that’s the case, it could help simplify payments and save you money on interest.
- CONSOLIDATE DEBT BY TAKING OUT A NEW LOAN – Once again, if you have strong credit, it could potentially save you money on interest or make it easier for you to manage your debt. However, if you have poor credit, be prepared for high-interest rates. In that case, it may not be worth it.
- CONSIDER REFINANCING – If you have strong credit and high-interest debts, refinancing your debt could help you lower your interest rate, have smaller monthly payments, and help you save money overall. Conversely, if you have poor credit you may not be able to get the best terms and rates. Before deciding, shop around and ask questions to make sure it is the right choice for you.
Know It Is An Emotional Journey
A lot of strong emotions come with having debt, especially for the victims of financial fraud.
For example, grief, denial, shame, fear, stress, anxiety, and anger. Some days your debt may feel like it is eclipsing joy and happiness in your life. And guess what? That’s perfectly normal.
It is helpful to know that when it comes to carrying debt, you’re certainly not alone.
By understanding that it is a process, a part of your scam recovery, and accepting the emotions that come with debt, you’ll be able to manage your payments, but your emotional and mental well-being as well.
Because paying off debt can be a long and arduous journey, you’ll need to tap into your arsenal of motivational tactics to stay on top of your plan.
That is what we are here to help you with – join one of our support groups or our victims’ forum at www.ScamVictimSupport.org
However, you are going to be doing the heavy lifting. Do not expect anyone to save you, you have to make the effort and do the work.
Track Your Progress
Get creative and go beyond templates and spreadsheets. You can track your progress by way of a debt thermometer, or create a grid of squares, with each square representing $100. Each time you pay off $100, color in each square.
We also recommend that you add your debt management to your scam victims’ journal – log important milestones and temporary setbacks!
Celebrate Your Wins
It is important to celebrate minor victories along the way, no matter how small.
Treat yourself to something simple each time you have passed a checkpoint. And once you have made your last payment on an individual debt, do something special to commemorate the occasion (within reason, of course). After all the hard work and perseverance you have put into debt repayment, you certainly deserve it.