Creditor’s threats are illegal scams
The phone rings at 3 a.m., and the person on the other end of the line informs you, with a strong accent, that you owe $7,369 on your credit card ending in 0469, and that if you fail to wire funds in payment within the next 24 hours your employer will be notified of the delinquency, you will be arrested and charged with default, and the sheriff will be dispatched to seize your home and vehicle.
The above scenario is typical of a debt collector scam. This is a scam where a con-artist illegally poses as a creditor or debt collector and tries to take monies owed on a legitimate debt. Often these scammers unlawfully impersonate legitimate law firms or collection agencies to make demands and threats to their victims for payment. When medical bills, job loss, divorce, or other tragedy prevents someone from staying on top of things, these scammers go on the attack. What is worse, these con-artists take illegal action to harass and victimize you.
Scammers generally identify individuals with credit problems through public record searches. They can obtain personal information such as the victim’s bank account numbers, social security number, family information, and even the name and address of the victim’s employer. Sometimes scammers use this information to fraudulently induce payment for legitimate debts – meaning the victim thinks they are paying off a real debt, but instead the con-artist receives the payment so that the debt remains unpaid. Don’t let yourself be tricked into paying the same debt twice.
Once a victim is identified the incessant and unruly phone calls begin. Scammer phone calls are made at all hours of the day. Scammers falsely represent to have the authority to take property, garnish wages, and even have the victim arrested. Scammers threaten to damage reputations and inform the victim’s family, friends, and employer of the victim’s debt problems. Scammers make these threats and then offer a settlement option of a sum of a few thousand dollars to stop the harassment if the victim will immediately wire funds.
Scammers generally operate outside the U.S. but use online services to obtain telephone numbers within the U.S. to give them the appearance of legitimacy. One scammer that I identified late last year used a New Orleans phone number and was impersonating an actual New Orleans law firm. I was able to identify the scam because the con-artist’s behavior was obviously illegal. By doing an Internet search of the purported firm I was able to locate the real office and its real phone number, and report the scam.
Scammer’s are easily identified when their behavior violates federal law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits a creditor from making false representations or making threats to a person’s reputation or property, or from using obscene or profane language. Additionally, the FDCPA prohibits a creditor from repeatedly calling or calling before 8 a.m. or later than 9 p.m. in the debtor’s time zone.
The FDCPA also requires a creditor to announce that they are a debt collector and that the communication is an “attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” If you receive a collection call where the creditor does not identify themselves, or no statement is made that the “call is an attempt to collect a debt,” or you are being threatened, then there is a strong possibility that the call is a scam. If a legitimate creditor is taking these steps, then you have a claim against that creditor for violating your rights under the FDCPA.
If you find that you have been targeted by a scam artist you should report it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (855-411-2372) and the Nevada Attorney General (702-486-3132). Burying your head in the sand and avoiding creditor’s calls, however, is not an option. If you have legitimate debt problems, you have rights and options that can preserve your lifestyle, protect your family, and help you get a fresh start. Get the advice you need so that you can restore your peace of mind.
Michael Millward is an attorney with Heritage Law Group, P.C., in Minden, Nevada. He focuses on bankruptcy, debtor’s right, business, contracts, and litigation. He may be reached at 782-0040 or http://www.HeritageNevada.com.