A reader's wife clicks on an unsolicited email and gets a lot of suspicious promises.

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Question: My wife got a spam email from a company that seemed to know we have thousands of dollars in credit card debt we can’t afford to pay off. The email said they could wipe out all our debts and save us from being prosecuted and maybe even going to jail!

My wife is much more naive than me, and she actually emailed them back without telling me first. They promised all sorts of things but wanted $250 up front for “set-up fees.” I KNOW this isn’t right, and my wife is listening to me, but I can tell she has doubts. Can you explain this better than I can? I want to show her an expert’s opinion.

— Andrew in New Hampshire

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

There are so many red flags here, you can host a parade. First of all, never trust your financial lives to a company you know nothing about. If a company emails you, that’s just the beginning.

Before replying, you have to do a little homework. Don’t worry, it won’t take long. Check out our guide called How Do I Know Which Debt Relief Company To Trust?

You’ll learn how to quickly verify if this is a legitimate company with a proven track record of helping satisfied customers. Frankly, I doubt it. Why? Two reasons…

1. No reputable debt-relief agency spreads the lie that you can go to jail for credit card debt. If you aren’t committing fraud, credit card debt is a civil matter — “debtor prisons” went out with the mid-1800s. Read more at Can I Go to Jail for Credit Card Debt?

2. Reputable debt-relief agencies don’t charge up-front fees. It’s not even legal to do this. Any fees they do assess should be explained fully.

Finally, let me point out why this email “seemed to know” you were buried under credit card debt. That wasn’t hard to figure out. The average U.S. household has more than $15,000 in credit card debt, according to a Debt.com report. Blanketing the country with a duplicitous email is sure to entice a few people to reply. That’s all these unscrupulous companies need to find hardworking Americans they can steal from.

If you need credit card debt help, Andrew, call a certified Debt.com counselor at 1-888-503-5563. The call is free, and so is a debt analysis. If Debt.com can match you with a company that can help, you’ll get a full explanation of what it will cost and how much you’ll save.

What happens if you don’t? You call us back and we investigate on your behalf. All the companies that partner with Debt.com have to follow our Code of Ethics. Since I’ve been Debt.com chairman, I’m happy to report we haven’t had one serious complaint, and even the minor ones were immediately resolved to the client’s satisfaction. That’s how we maintain the Better Business Bureau accreditation you see in the logo at the top our website.

Have a debt question? Can’t find what you need to know? We can! Submit any debt or finance question you have, and we’ll tap a pro who will respond as quickly as possible.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC