The worst economic downturn in generations has created a perfect storm of financial shocks: evaporating investments, foreclosures and job losses. To add insult to injury, a new generation of thieves increasingly targets the dwindling bank balances of struggling Washington residents. The Washington Attorney General’s Office created this Web page to provide you with information about legitimate resources to survive the recession and avoid schemes.
Money Smarts: The stock market is up and interest rates are down, but for many Washingtonians the effects of the recession are far from over. Consumers continue to feel battered and overwhelmed by record unemployment, dwindling retirement accounts, scams and schemes, and an increasingly aggressive marketplace vying for our hard earned money. However, with careful planning and the right tools, you can take control of your financial future and wellbeing.
Sign-up now to attend a free “Money Smarts” event organized by AARP and hear from the experts with AARP, the Attorney General’s Office, Microsoft, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the Stanford Center for Longevity, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Financial Institutions, KCTS 9, the Social Security Administration, the Utilities and Transportation Commission and the Washington State Crime Prevention Association.
Learn how to spend less, save more, and outwit the latest scams and schemes. Also hear about the latest in brain science, and learn what simple steps you can take to boost your brain health and keep your memory sharp as a tack. Lunch is provided.
- MOUNTLAKE TERRACE: Wednesday, April 21, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- KENNEWICK: Wednesday, May 26, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- SPOKANE VALLEY: Wednesday, June 16, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- LACEY: Wednesday, July 21, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Space is limited and registration is required. Register on AARP's Web site or call toll-free 1-877-926-8300.
- Attorney General’s Foreclosure and Mortgage Assistance Information Web page: Resources for those facing foreclosure or are unable to make their mortgage payments, scams related to loan modifications and foreclosure rescue services, and efforts by the Attorney General’s Office to help those in need.
- Washington State Homeownership Information, online or 1-877-894-HOME (1-877-894-4663): Provided by the state Department of Financial Institutions and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. Includes list of free, state-approved housing counselors.
- Homeowners in need of legal help who are unable to afford a lawyer should contact theHome Foreclosure Legal Aid Project. Call 1-877-894-HOME (4663).
- Federal government Making Home Affordable program Web site: Determine if you're eligible for refinancing or a loan modification through these federal programs.
- Homeownership Preservation Foundation's national hotline: 1-888-995-HOPE. Provides free, bilingual personalized assistance to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
- The Washington State Department of Financial institutions requires that any provider offering loan modifications be licensed as loan originators, mortgage brokers or consumer loan companies. If you choose to go with a loan modification business, verify the business is licensed by checking the DFI Web site or calling 1-877-RING-DFI.
- Washington Recovery Web site: Information about the federal economy recovery package, resources for individuals and funding for specific programs.
- Federal Recovery Web site: Official federal site for information about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- Detecting Antitrust Violations: Resources to help government procurement employees detect bid rigging and price fixing
Basic Food, online or 1-877-514-FOOD: Benefits provided by the Department of Social and Health Services.
Washington Telephone Assistance Program, online or 1-888-700-8880
Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program Web site
Department of Social and Health Services benefits site: Information about food, cash assistance, child care, medical benefits and long-term care assistance.
Washington Prescription Drug Program Web site: Purchase prescription drugs at a discount.
Office of the Insurance Commissioner Web site: COBRA health insurance for laid-off workers.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program Web site: Provides a list of government-approved credit counseling agencies.
The National Foundation for Consumer Counseling, online or 1-800-388-2227: Provides a list of member agencies.
Federal Trade Commission’s “Knee Deep in Debt ” publication: Advice for those overwhelmed by bills.
Washington State Department of Financial Institutions' Financial Education Clearinghouse Web site: Provides resources and information to help you smartly manage your money.
Employment: Bogus work-at-home job offers and phishing emails that appear to come from employers or job-listing services are some of the scams now targeting the unemployed. Avoid any job that requires you to pay money up front or involves sending money by Western Union or Moneygram. Use caution when posting your resume online and protect your personal information. Don’t click on links sent in e-mails. Ignore requests to do a "credit check" prior to being offered a job. Check out potential employers with the Better Business Bureau. Be suspicious of if an employer uses a common e-mail account such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or MSN instead of a corporate domain, or if the only provided contact information is a PO Box or a number that always goes to voicemail.
Debt Relief: Be wary of offers to reduce your debt. Be skeptical of any business that asks for money up front and run from those who promise they can repair a bad credit report or that quickly recommend bankruptcy as a solution. If you’re looking for help, it’s important to understand the differences between debt consolidation programs, which may help you pay off your debt, and debt negotiation plans, which can be risky. The Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau both provide helpful information about these programs.
Housing: In this time of rising mortgage rates, desperate homeowners have been lured by offers of assistance – only to be cheated out of equity they’ve built up, tricked into transferring ownership of their home or stuck paying expensive fees for little or no help. Read our warning to help you identify loan modification scams and foreclosure rescue schemes.
Stimulus Grants: Beware of companies that offer “free” advice on how to get government grants or a stimulus check. Contrary to claims found on many Web sites, the federal government does not award grants to help consumers pay general debt. Some of these Web sites are "phishing" sites designed to steal your personal information. Others enroll you in multiple paid programs. Never provide personal information to someone promising stimulus cash, they’re likely after your money or your identity. Information about legitimate government grants is available at www.recovery.wa.gov, www.grants.gov, www.studentaid.ed.gov, www.govbenefits.gov and www.sba.gov.
Investments: This is not the time to make rash decisions or sudden moves; you need to seek the advice of a trusted investment advisor or financial planner. Cons follow the headlines and prey on the worries and fears of everyday investors. Be wary of unsolicited financial advice and get-rich-quick schemes. Read the Department of Financial Institutions Web site for more information about these scams and a list of resources.
Antitrust Procurement Scams: With stimulus funds pouring into the state and tough economic times, it's important for government agencies to help ensure that money is spent for the public's benefit and not lining bad guys' pockets. Government procurement representatives should read our resources to learn how to detect bid rigging and price fixing.