(Last Updated On: March 24, 2022)

Choices: A Cybersecurity Learning Lesson

Guest EditorialGuest Editorial A Guest Editorial is an article written by an outside contributor or author who is not a part of the SCARS Management or SCARS Editorial Team. We allow scam victims and stakeholders to contribute articles, commentary, or editorials for publication on RomanceScamsNOW.com for review and publishing. To submit an article please send it to contact@AgainstScams.org by Brett JohnsonBrett Johnson He is a Cybersecurity, Cybercrime, Fraud, and Identity Theft Expert. Keynote Speaker, Consultant, Writer, Podcast Personality. Former USA Most Wanted Cybercriminal, Identity Thief, Hacker, and Original Internet Godfather. He is also an Advisor to SCARS. Brett is one of the top experts in the world on cybercrime, identity theft, fraud, and cybersecurity. His knowledge is unique. His education in cybercrime does not come from a book, he has hands-on training. His knowledge is from the criminal side of things and has an understanding of cybercrime that the majority of people on the planet will never possess., SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Advisor on CybercrimeCybercrime Cybercrime is a crime related to technology, computers, and the Internet. Typical cybercrime are performed by a computer against a computer, or by a hacker using software to attack computers or networks.

Presented by SCARS

Good Choices / Bad Choices

Every Victim Understands The Role Choices Play In Their Safety & Security – Sadly Governments Do Not Understand This Still To This Day!

In this editorial, Brett Johnson, a member of the SCARS Advisory Board, talks about the choices made by U.S. governments that leave the door wide open for scamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. and fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim..

While this may not seem related to our normal topics, it is essential for victims to understand the poor choices being made in local and regional governments. This places us all at risk, and only through voting can we choose smarter people. Cybercrime is near half of all crime now in places like the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. But governments have done such a poor job in tracking this that only the UK really knows for certain its magnitude.

Elections have consequences and we need to choose smarter and more capable instead of politics. We need people that will uphold their oaths and protect their residents. The current crop is clearly lacking in their commitment and choices. But these are people that were chosen in elections – did you vote emotionally? Or did you vote for people that understand how to keep you safe? Next time we all need to choose better!

It is especially important for scamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. victims to understand their decision-making both before and after their scams. But especially after the scam. Victims continue to make emotion-based decisions which lead to even more problems.

Only by acknowledging our mistakes and honestly assessing our poor choices can we change to make better ones! This is a big part of the reason why we present this. But it is also something that affects not only every American, but these are not unique to the U.S. – politicians around the work keep making bad choices and we keep rewarding them with returning them to office!

We need to make better choices everywhere!


Choices: A Cybersecurity Learning Lesson by Brett Johnson

Published on September 30, 2021, on LinkedIn.com

Fear.

Fear means inaction. Fear means desperation. Fear means poor choices.

Poor Choices:

  • Like States implementing emergency unemployment funds with literally no security in place.
  • Like States giving criminals six months to steal as much money as they could before implementing security on those unemployment funds.

Then more Poor Choices:

Like States hiring a marketing company pretending to be a security company.

Fear caused it. Fear of a collapsing economy. Fear of not being able to get money out to people who needed it. Fear of not being able to stop criminals stealing billions of dollars.

Fear brought desperation. Desperation brought Poor Choices.

Oddly this isn’t another writeup with me slammingSlamming Slamming is when a phone company illegally switches you from your existing phone service company to their own service without your permission, then bills you for service you did not request. ID.meID.me According to the company: ID.me simplifies how individuals prove and share their identity online - it provides secure identity proofing, authentication, and group affiliation verification for government and businesses across sectors. The company’s technology meets the highest federal standards for consumer authentication and is approved as a NIST 800-63-3 IAL2 / AAL2 conformant credential service provider by the Kantara Initiative. ID.me is the only provider with video chat and is committed to “No Identity Left Behind” to enable all people to have a secure digital identity.. I could, easily.

It is that little subconscious editor of mine. Bearded Dude. Chubby. RATM t-shirt and no idea how to use his in-door voice. Yeah, that Dude. He keeps screaming DO IT! ROAST THEM AGAIN! THIS ONE IS EASY!

I refuse. I’ve said all I need to about ID.me. I’ve pointed out the problems. I’ve helped give voice to victims. And I’ve spoken to enough reporters about the matter.

I’m done. No need to continue beating that dead horse.

This piece? This piece is about choices.

Smart Choices or Poor Choices.

Specifically, this is about making the Smart Choice when it comes to cybersecurity.

Paul Eckloff, PR Director at LexisNexis, posted an article published on Tucson.com regarding the unemployment fraud that has been eating the United States alive. Usually, I wouldn’t take the time to read it. I’m aware of the unemployment fraud problem. I know States failed miserably on security. I’m aware many States Chose Poorly when selecting a security company. And I’m more than aware of how much money has been stolen by criminals (which has prompted me to adopt the title of “The Only FraudsterFraudster A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. to Go Broke During the Pandemic.”)

So no, Virginia—I usually would not read another Unemployment Fraud article.

But Paul included a quote from Haywood Talcove, CEO LexisNexis Special Services and LexisNexis Risk Solutions Government. Talcove referred to Job Posting Scams and stolen identity fraud:

“There isn’t a bank, a financial institution, a hotel or an e-retailer that hasn’t solved this.”

That got my attention. Because I agreed with it. Talcove was right.

Thing is? Cybercrime isn’t Rocket Science. It isn’t sophisticated. Attackers don’t tend to be computer geniuses or criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. masterminds.

Talcove knows that. His remark shows it.

I read the article.

Inside? A learning lesson. A lesson about the Smart Choices and Poor Choices of Cybersecurity.

Much of the article was about how crooks had defrauded the ID.me system by tricking real people into verifying themselves. I detail such in my Open Letter to ID.me. It’s a Nifty trick. Not complicated. Not difficult. Just a basic Social EngineeringSocial Engineering Social engineering is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. It is used as a type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, it differs from a traditional "con" in that it is often one of many steps in a more complex fraud scheme. It has also been defined as "any act that influences a person to take any action that may or may not be in their best interests." Scam. But a very successful basic Social Engineering Scam.

Talcove talks about the scam. Everyone knows it was successful—criminals, security companies, news media, State unemployment offices. Hell, even ID.me knows it was successful. Talcove then says what really needs said:

“There isn’t a bank, a financial institution, a hotel, or an e-retailer that hasn’t solved this. Identity verification tools in the private sector can actually mitigate this…It’s not a hard problem to solve and it’s not an expensive problem to solve.” Talcove goes on to say you can’t eliminate all fraud, but that a 10%-50% fraud rate is unacceptable.

Groovy. The man gets it. He understands. He’s got the experience to realize the Truth of the matter.

But then a curious thing happens.

An ID.me spokesperson, @Madison Pappas, chimes in and says Talcove is being misleading. I take issue with that. He wasn’t. Talcove just said people should already know.

I also take issue with Pappas highlighting the ID.me achievements without discussing their myriad problems. But hey, that’s her job. What else is she gonna do, say things have been a real clusterf__k over there?

Sorry, got off topic a second. Had to step away from the PC. Subcon Editor Dude started screaming NOW! NOW! I almost went there, too. I really wanted to dissect what Pappas said and tear it apart. But I didn’t. It would have been fun. I would have had a blast. But I didn’t. I chose the Nobler Path—The Learning Lesson. The Subcon Editor Dude slunk away.

So let me get back on topic:

The Learning Lesson of Smart Cybersecurity Choices

I read the article. Then I sat on it. An idea was forming in my head and I wanted to give it time to ferment. See if it would turn into Whiskey or Rotgut. I gave it time.

Whiskey appeared.

We have a situation where the security provider did not fully understand the threat landscape. Bluntly put–They didn’t know how much fraud was coming their way or the types that were going to be perpetrated.

That is not uncommon. Many a new business opened or product launched doesn’t anticipate how fraud might hit. Then fraud comes knocking. The company or product team then adjusts and learns what they need to do to combat the problem. Not uncommon. Chalk it up to inexperience.

But that same type of inexperience when dealing with a security company? Not acceptable. Especially when dealing with multi-billion dollar fraud that redefined cybercrime.

The Takeaway?

The primary problem was States chose a security company too inexperienced and ill-prepared to combat the crime coming their way. ID.me would slowly learn as any business or product provider would when first encountering fraud. They would adjust and learn how to fix the problems. But since it was a security company? The problems would be exacerbated.

ID.me certainly stopped some fraud. No question in that. But their inexperience resulted in criminals using known techniques to defraud their system. Their ill-preparedness resulted in countless Americans in need being denied the funds to which they were entitled. Their business model resulted in serious privacy concern questions.

To me that boils down to inexperience. ID.me didn’t know what was coming and then had to learn how to handle it. They are still learning. That’s a problem only made worse as ID.me struggles with being both a marketing company and security company, as well as dealing with a CEO who likes to victim blameBlame Blame or Blaming is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong, their action is blameworthy. By contrast, when someone is morally responsible for doing something right, we may say that his or her action is praiseworthy. Blame imparts responsibility for an action or act, as in that they made a choice to perform that act or action..

There he goes again. Subcon Editor Dude saw what I just typed and started screaming NOW! But there was faint hope in that scream. Ah! He just bowed his head in defeat and whispered, “now?” I pity Subconscious Editor Dude. I admit to him it is a struggle to keep from bringing the hammer out. Yes, the struggle is real.

Anyway…

Talcove’s remarks show a person and a company with a degree of experience and an understanding of a threat only years of experience can give.

The Pappas remarks and the actions of ID.me show a company which simply hasn’t reached that level yet.

Herein lies the lesson.

Smart Choices versus Poor Choices.

No one remembers the smart decisions which are made. No one remembers those people or the good they brought by making a Smart Choice.

Everyone remembers the Poor Choices. Everyone remembers who made that decision. And everyone talks about them constantly.

For those States which chose an inexperienced company to provide security? It was a Poor Choice. Look at the criminals hitting the system. Look at the legitimate people denied benefits because of the friction the system created and because of the lack of proper customer service. Look at the privacy concerns.

Look at the problems.

Those things will be remembered. At some point a reckoning will take place. That’s the way the universe works. Poor Choices are remembered. See? That’s me being an optimist. I’m a guy who sees the donut, not the hole. Mmm, Donuts. Maybe a delicious glazed one will get Editor Dude smiling? I ask him. His frown grudgingly turns upside down.

Anyway–

Look at the problems. Then ask if those things would have happened with an experienced group.

  • Certainly the friction caused legitimate benefit seekers would not have happened.
  • Certainly known techniques criminals used to defraud the system would not have worked.
  • Certainly an experienced security company would not have had those privacy issue concerns.

And the Big Question? Would an experienced security company have stopped the same amount of fraud that ID.me did?

More. An experienced security company would have stopped more. Why? Because ID.me had to learn the landscape. They had to learn the lessons of true fraud. They had to learn how to deal with the fraud. All lessons which an experienced company would have already learned.

An experienced company would not have had the issues seen and would have stopped more fraud as a result. As Talcove indicated—It isn’t complicated. And it isn’t expensive.

Experience matters. A lot.

Those 33 States were basically Beta Testers for the ID.me product. States used the product and let those problems occur while ID.me learned some real lessons of fraud and gained some experience.

Problem is? When it comes to stuff like this—You don’t want to be a Beta Tester. You want the finished product.

Time to say that I’m not plugging LexisNexis. I like LexisNexis, but there are many companies providing exceptional services. All it takes is some basic research to find one.

And I am not saying start-ups are bad. There are many Start-Ups offering very promising technology and products. Those Start-Ups have some extremely good, experienced people steering the company.  I am all for Start-Ups.

I am saying that experience matters. Especially when signing on a security company. Think before you hire. Don’t just swallow the Cybersecurity Pillow Talk. Do some research. Is the company experienced? Are the people in the company experienced? Can the company handle the problems your organization has. Does your decision have an element of desperation attached? If so?

Poor Choices.

References:

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 scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits 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 traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. 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:

  1. Ignore it – stay in denialDenial 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
  2. Procrastinate – you know you have to deal with it, but just not today
  3. 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.

International Issues

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:

  1. Regain Control

  2. Control The Damage

  3. Confront The Debt

  4. Debt Management

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 forgivenessForgiveness 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:

  1. Do it yourself – you plan and then work the plan
  2. 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 counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health 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.

The Cost

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.

High-Interest Rates

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

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 shameShame 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.

Beginning

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 freezeFreeze 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 appsApps 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, denialDenial 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., shame, fear, stress, anxiety, and angerAnger Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, trigger, hurt or threat. About one-third of scam victims become trapped in anger for extended periods of time following a scam. A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view anger as an emotion that triggers a part of the fight or flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically. Anger can have many physical and mental consequences. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them", psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability.. 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.

Stay Motivated

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 groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers. 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.

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

U.S. FTCFTC The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government whose principal mission is the enforcement of civil (non-criminal) U.S. antitrust law and the promotion of consumer protection. The FTC can also act as a clearinghouse for criminal reports sent to other agencies for investigation and prosecution. To learn more visit www.FTC.gov or to report fraud visit ReportFraud.FTC.gov at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and SCARS at www.Anyscams.com

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SCARS the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated

By the SCARS™ Editorial Team
Society of Citizens Against Relationship ScamsSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Inc.

A Worldwide Crime Victims Assistance & Crime Prevention Nonprofit Organization Headquartered In Miami Florida USA & Monterrey NL Mexico, with Partners In More Than 60 Countries
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