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Furloughed federal workers are warned of employment scams, bogus loans

Federal employees and contractors who aren't being paid due to the shutdown line up for free coffee and warm meals. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — As federal workers and contractors miss paychecks, consumer experts are warning them to be wary of scam artists who might seek to exploit their troubling situation.

The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection said anyone in financial distress should watch out for bogus loans, illegal debt collection practices and work-at-home schemes.

Short term, unsecured loans — sometimes called “payday loans” because the loan is due on the next payday — are illegal in Maryland.

People should be wary of lenders who charge upfront fees, have no physical address or contact the borrower by phone. Often, payday lenders aren’t interested in credit history.

There are laws that prohibit harassment calls from debt collectors. Debt collectors may not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and may not use the phone to repeatedly annoy or harass borrowers. Debt collectors also may not misrepresent their identities.

Working from home may seem like a good way to bridge the financial divide between paychecks, but some work-at-home offers are scams. Among the phony income generating opportunities are job offers for “mystery shoppers” and “envelope stuffers.”

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