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In fake debt collection scams, family and co-workers of victim likely to be contacted

Fraudsters running debt collection scams appear to be broadening their tactics for extracting money from victims. Specifically, of the hundreds of complaints about fake debt collection scams received by Fraud.org so far this year, many mention that the scammers call and harass co-workers and family members of the intended victim as well as the victims themselves. Fraud.org is warning consumers who have been contacted by one of these scammers to alert co-workers and family members that they may also receive calls.

Complaints to Fraud.org have noted that callers posing as debt collectors will call the victim’s workplace to put pressure on the victim to pay. The scammers then count on the victims’ fear of losing their job to prompt them to pay the fictitious debt. Similarly, we’ve received reports that fraudsters have called family members of the victim, using social pressure to get the victim to pay. The average financial loss reported by victims of debt collection scams for the period October 2013 to June 2014 was $1,748.39. 

Scammers may be acquiring contact information for a victim’s employer or family members through bogus online payday loan applications. Information about consumers who have previously been defrauded are also sold and traded among scammers. These so-called “sucker lists” can contain information such as a consumers’ home and work address, phone number, occupation, and information about how much money a consumer has spent on previous fake offers.

Previously these scammers called consumers who used payday loans or other short-term loan solutions demanding the debt be paid. More often than not the consumers being contacted by the fake debt collectors had already paid off the loan or did not recall ever taking out a loan from payday or any other short-term company. If the consumer did have an outstanding payment the scammer would demand a significant amount more money than the consumer actually owed.

Consumers who have been approached or have had co-workers or family members approached by debt collection scammers should keep the following tips in mind:

  • If a caller asks you to wire money or provide personal financial information such as a bank routing number, credit or debit card number over the phone, hang up. It’s probably a scam.
  • Be wary when applying for payday loans via the Internet. Not only do you risk exposing your personal information to criminals, online loans typically have higher fees and interest rates than loans applied for offline.
  • If you are unsure of whether or not you owe a debt, ask the caller to only contact you by mail and to provide written proof of the debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires debt collectors to stop calling their targets if they are asked to do so.
  • If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a government agency or official-sounding institution who says you owe money on a debt, hang up and call the organization in question directly.
  • If you are unsure whether you are delinquent on a payday loan, contact the lender directly to inquire about the status of your account.
  • Look up numbers or email addresses for lenders on your own or rely on your loan paperwork to find a legitimate contact number.
  • Consumers who receive calls from phantom debt collection scammers may have had their personal information exposed, raising the risk of identity theft.The Federal Trade Commission offers a step-by-step process for recovering from identity theft here.
  • If a scammer using this scam approaches you, or if you’ve already fallen victim, contact local law enforcement and file a complaint with NCL at www.fraud.org.