This weekend I got a creepy call on my cellphone. A prerecorded woman's voice invited me to cash in on an "economic stimulus modification plan." Confused, I listened on and she asked me to press a button if I wanted to learn more about "this program designed for homeowners."
Aha! I flashed back to a Saturday morning in May that I spent in the basement of Memorial Coliseum, listening to Department of Justice employee Jan Margosian forcefully lecture sorrow-faced homeowners about the flood of foreclosure scams her office was seeing. "There are a lot of folks out there that are what we would call pond slime, cat's breath, scum," Margosian had said, frankly.
Now Newsweek has officially declared the recession is over, but in Multnomah County, 2,747 houses are currently up for sale after foreclosure and the "cat's breath" people are still alive and kickin'. The good news is that the governor just recently signed two strong bills I covered earlier this year that will help cut back on debt scammers: Senate Bill 628, which forces banks to talk to troubled homeowners face-to-face rather than just through letters pasted to front doors, and Senate Bill 328, which finally hired someone at the state to prosecute illegal debt collection scams.
But the point is, if you get any phone calls like the one I received promising money from Obama, don't tell them anything! Definitely don't press any numbers or follow through on their prompts because, according to the Attorney General's office, that could land you on their call-back list. Instead, sign up for the AG's new "scam alert" list and you'll be the know-it-all who can scare your friends with stories of ridiculous fraudsters.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!