Phone collection scam. Don’t be a victim

While other blogs have addressed collection law and lottery scams, there is a new scam which falls somewhere in the middle of the two. Consumers will receive phone calls from individuals claiming to be with non-existent government agencies, threatening criminal arrest and prosecution for non-payment of debts. Unlike a standard collection call, where the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt owed to a specified entity, these calls are not on behalf of a specific creditor. Instead, the callers are simply trying to scare or harass you into paying them money. They may claim that they are with the “California Bureau of Criminal Justice” or the “International Arbitration Investigation Agency”, and that payment of the alleged debt must be made immediately, otherwise a warrant will be issued. They may request your social security number for “verification” if you deny owing the debt, supposedly so that can make sure that there has “not been some type of mistake”. NEVER give any personal information to an unknown caller. Also remember that you are entirely within your rights to request the credentials of anyone who claims to be a law enforcement agent.

If you receive a collection call of this nature, verify again the name of the claimed “agency” and ask for a return phone number with extension. Failure to provide this information should automatically generate suspicion. Request notification of the alleged “charges” in writing, and explain that you want to have the opportunity to discuss them with a criminal defense attorney. No legitimate law enforcement officer should refuse these simple requests. If these requests are refused, than you should politely hang up the phone, and write down notes about the conversation. If you have caller id, save the phone number. All of this information can be provided to the Federal Trade Commission, so that they may investigate the matter. Finally, make sure that your children understand this procedure as well. They are much less likely to be suspicious of anyone who claims to be “law enforcement”, and can be especially vulnerable to demands that they provide information which can “keep their parents out of jail.”

Also be wary of the follow-up call. This may be from an individual claiming to work for a real government agency, who is supposedly investigating the call made by the previous caller. They will recite the scam details, and may ask for information so that they can contact you later as a witness. FOLLOW THE SAME PROCEDURE! It is always important to be vigilant, especially when the release of personal information to a devious third-party can have such catastrophic and far-reaching consequences. Hopefully you will never encounter this type of scam, but if you do, follow this advice and prevent yourself from becoming another victim.

[1] Since this blog was originally published based on accounts from firm clients, this article was published and is worth reading: