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FRAUD RESOURCE CENTER

Credit Card Interest Rate Scam

En español | The average annual percentage rate (APR) on interest-bearing credit card accounts was 16.3 percent in mid-2021, according to Federal Reserve data, up 3 points from the same period five years earlier. Little wonder there’s a booming market for scammers peddling phony promises to reduce your credit card rates, slash interest payments and help you pay down big balances.

These interest-rate scams long have been a robocall staple. Credit cards were the third-most common subject of phone spam in 2020 (behind Social Security and auto warranties), accounting for about 1 in 7 such calls, according to Hiya, a company that provides cloud-based call-management services for businesses.

If you pick up, automated messengers claiming to be from banks or credit card companies urge you to “press 1” for a special, act-now offer to switch your account to low or even no interest. If you bite, a live operator takes over, pumping you for card numbers and other data they can use for identity theft.

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Other callers say they’re from debt-relief companies with insider know-how in negotiating lower rates with card providers. They’ll charge fees in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars for things you can do yourself, like transfer your balance to a lower-rate card or sign you up for a new card with a limited-time 0 percent APR.

And they may neglect to tell you these moves can mean hefty bank or transaction fees.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shut down several such robocall schemes in recent years — one of which particularly targeted seniors, the agency says. Even consumers who turned down suspicious rate-reduction pitches often learned later that the companies had used their information to apply for multiple credit cards.

“You have just as much clout with your credit card issuer as these [debt-relief] companies," the FTC says. If you want to try to lower your interest rate, call the customer-service number on the back of your credit card and ask.

Warning Signs

  • You receive an automated call from “card services” or a major credit card company offering to reduce or eliminate your interest rate.
  • You get an unsolicited call from a company promising to secure you a reduced APR and lower credit card interest payments.
  • The company demands an upfront fee to negotiate with your card provider. It’s against the law for debt-relief services to collect payment before they have done anything for you.
  • You’re pressed to act fast to take advantage of an offer or promotion that’s about to expire.

Do's

  • Do hang up on an unsolicited call offering to get you a lower credit card interest rate.
  • Do contact a credit card issuer yourself if you want to reduce your rate.
  • Do consider putting a freeze on your credit report, which makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
  • Do add your number to the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry, online or by calling 888-382-1222. It won’t eliminate illegal robocalls, but it will make them easier to identify because legitimate businesses won’t call registered numbers without prior permission.

Don'ts

  • Don’t press 1 or any other number based on prompts in a suspicious robocall, even if supposedly to “opt out” of future calls. It can lead to more spam and scam calls.
  • Don’t provide or confirm personal or financial information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers, to someone who calls about card rates.

More Resources

  • Report interest rate reduction scams to the FTC online or via phone at 877-382-4357 and the Federal Communications Commission.
  • If the scam results in identity theft, you also can file a report with the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov site.

Updated August 17, 2021

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Whether you have been personally affected by scams or fraud or are interested in learning more, the AARP Fraud Watch Network advocates on your behalf and equips you with the knowledge you need to feel more informed and confidently spot and avoid scams.

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