A fake debt collection scam that the Federal Trade Commission is already looking into has made its way to Thomaston, and one woman who is fighting back wants others to be aware of the scam.
The woman, an employee of Upson Regional Medical Center who asked not to be identified, said she started getting calls last Monday from a number with a California area code. She said the man on the phone, speaking with a foreign accent, identified himself as being with the Department of Legal Affairs and Investigations. He told her she had taken out a payday loan, they wanted their money, and they were sending legal documentation to her work. She said they knew where she worked, her address, and her email address.
The calls began again Tuesday morning. This time when she asked what account number they had allegedly sent the loan to, the man gave her bank and bank account number. When she asked for the date of the deposit and how much, he told her she would have to call back and talk with their attorney, Alex Watson. When she called, the same man answered and identified himself as Alex Watson. He went on to threaten to have her arrested at her job.
After having checked with the police and been told there were no papers and no warrants for her arrest, she began checking the internet and found reports from others around the nation who have had the same thing happen. She said she knows it is a scam, and doesn’t want anyone to fall for it.
“I’d hate to see this happen to some older person in town who gets this call and thinks they owe this and actually give it,” she said.
And the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would hate to see it, too. At the request of the FTC, in February of this year, a U. S. district court halted an operation that the FTC alleges collected phantom payday loan “debts” that consumers did not owe. Consumers received millions of collection calls from India, and since January 2010 the operation took in more than $5 million from victims, according to the FTC.
Often pretending to be law enforcement or other government authorities, the callers working with the defendants would falsely threaten to immediately arrest and jail consumers if they did not agree to make a payment on a delinquent payday loan, the FTC’s court papers stated.
“This is a brazen operation based on pure fraud, and the FTC is committed to shutting it down,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers should not be pressured into paying debt they don’t remember owing. Legitimate debt collectors must provide consumers with both written information about the debt, and instructions for protecting themselves if they don’t think they owe the debt.”
As part of its continuing crackdown on scams that target consumers in financial distress, the FTC charged Villa Park, California-based American Credit Crunchers, LLC, an affiliated company called Ebeeze, LLC, and the companies’ owner, Varang K. Thaker, with violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Over the last two years, consumers have filed more than 4,000 complaints with the FTC and state attorneys general about fraudulent debt collection calls.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
Editor’s note: Portions of this article came from an FTC news release dated February 21, 2012.