Don’t take extortion threats from ‘debt collection’ calls

By Robb Hicken/ chief storyteller

Phony debt collectors who are calling Idaho residents threatening them with criminal charges of check fraud, arrest and prosecution if they don’t pay immediately are practicing extortion.

Better Business Bureau of the Snake River Region says residents are be pressured by numerous calls from Nationwide Investigators (904-329-1740) and a Restitution Officer from the Law Enforcement Center (212-535-4709) and collection agent for payday loan (202-827-0720).

The scammers, using a disconcerting amount of personal information about their potential victims that includes name, address, previous loans, references, and on occasion, Social Security numbers, use tactics that place their victims under duress to respond immediately. They often suggest that if the payment is not made immediately, an affidavit will be issued to the court for Federal Check Fraud charges. The scammers demand a debit or credit card or for the victim to purchase a pre-paid check card to make payment.

Potential victims also report the caller refuse to provide a location and occasionally will not provide the name of the organization they represent.

If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, ask the caller his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Refuse to discuss any debt until you receive a written “validation notice.” The notice must include the amount of the debt, the creditor’s name, and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (your rights).

If a caller refuses to give you any of this information, do not pay. Hang up. Paying a fake debt collector may open the door to further collection attempts.

Do NOT give out personal or financial information or confirm sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security over the phone. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft.

If it is a legitimate debt – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor.

BBB offers the following advice if you receive a suspicious telephone call about an outstanding debt:

  • Check with the Idaho Department of Finance for licensing information at 888-346-3378 or finance.idaho.gov. A collection agency must be licensed by the state.  If they are violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or do not have a license, file a complaint with the Department of Finance.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online if the caller is abusive, uses threats or otherwise violates federal telemarketing laws.
  • File a complaint with BBB online if you believe a debt collector is trying to scam you at complaint.bbb.org.
Nicole Miller, business and consumer services specialist, contributed to this report.
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