PHONE SCAMS: When to Hit Ignore

Just when you thought the coast was clear from bill collectors dialing you up, these guys step onto the scene looking for a big payoff.

Words: Aimstar

Times are hard right now, globally. As to be expected and as some great thinker said many, many moons ago, during times of recession, people are the most creative. Unfortunately, that also means that greed is in high supply, and people will do just about anything to get that dough. We’ve all heard the stories of wiling, naive investors who got duped by ponzi schemes, but there’s a new ploy on the block that has innocent phone carriers (who doesn’t own a phone these days?) ready to fork over cash.

So how does this particular phone scam work? Random Company A will call your cell phone or land line from an unknown, blocked or a number that reads 0000. When you pick up, someone who claims to be an employee of Random Company A’s finance department will then inform you that you owe them said amount of dollars (usually in the thousands figure range) and that they will be pursuing legal action against you. Of course at this point you’re like, “What? Who are you?” But they continue along, making their call seem all too real by reciting your date of birth, your full name, your address and, sometimes, your Social Security number. They implicitly imply your criminal activity, and threaten to file claims on your credit report and with the police. They even suggest potential jail time.

Sometimes they’re not calling from Random Company A, they’re calling from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation or the Bureau of Criminal Identification. Sometimes they give you their name: John Wood, Bob White, Tom Jones, John Brown, Edward Brown, Kevin Johnson, Raymond Scott, Douglas (no last name), Appolonia (hilarious) and even Denzel. They may even offer you a number to call them back like, 888-785-4479 (or a Florida based number), but when you try to give them a call no one answers. When you ask them for their mailing address, they hang up. In London, the scam is a little different. They will call saying they are a company working on behalf of Microsoft and will even walk you through a step-by-step process over the phone. In other areas, it’s Lottery International calling. Simply said, all of these companies including the bureaus do not exist. So if you gave them your bank account information at any time during your conversation with them, you just got got, my friend.

They will call you incessantly, leave you voicemails and while the name of the person or company might change, the script doesn’t vary much. The caller is most often someone with a thick East Indian accent and apparently the call is blocked by new technology like the Spoof Card, which allows the caller to mask their number on your caller ID however they choose. Thousands of people from New York to New Zealand have been called by these phony bill collectors. And sadly, many bought into the scheme just as fast as it would have taken to just ignore the call.

While it hasn’t been all too clear how they get access to your personal information or even your phone number, the FBI has listed information on its site that lends more insight into the matter and that may help potential victims.

“12/01/2010—The IC3 receives a high volume of complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. In these scams, a caller claims that the victim is a delinquent in a payday loan and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences. The callers purport to be representatives of the FBI, Federal Legislative Department, various law firms, or other legitimate-sounding agencies. They claim to be collecting debts for companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Net, and other Internet check cashing services.

One of the most insidious aspects of this scam is that the callers have accurate information about the victims, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, employer information, bank account numbers, and names and telephone numbers of relatives and friends. The method by which the fraudsters obtained the personal information is unclear, but victims often relay that they had completed online applications for other loans or credit cards before the calls began.

The fraudsters relentlessly call the victim’s home, cell phone, and place of employment. They refuse to provide to the victims any details of the alleged payday loans and become abusive when questioned. The callers threaten victims with legal actions, arrests, and in some cases physical violence if they refuse to pay. In many cases, the callers even resort to harassment of the victim’s relatives, friends, and employers.

Some fraudsters instruct victims to fax a statement agreeing to pay a certain dollar amount, on a specific date, via prepaid visa card. The statement further declares that the victim would never dispute the debt. These telephone calls are an attempt to obtain payment by instilling fear in the victims. Do not follow the instructions of the caller.

If you receive telephone calls such as these, you should:

* Contact your banking institutions;
* Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file;
* Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger;
* File a complaint at www.IC3.gov.”

Here’s a tip: Save yourself a headache and some cash by just hitting ignore. Don’t answer and definitely don’t reply if any of the above fit the description. Know your rights; It’s illegal for any collector to call your phone if you’ve asked them to stop calling.

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