>Fake Debt Collectors and False Lotto Winners Bother and Terrify Consumers
Alleged Debt Collection Scam Uses Strange Names And Threats to Frighten Consumers
Here’s one scenario that has happened. Tamara moved into her townhouse two years ago and has faithfully paid mortgage payments. She is home alone one night just before ten when the phone rings. It’s a man on the other end who claims he is with a credit company. He calls it the Home Protection Credit Alliance and tells her the mortgage on her home is in default and the company is about to foreclose.
“What? she shrieks. She knows that can’t be true. She has made timely payments to her bank. “…and I can prove it,” she shouts. “I pay by credit card and they have received the payments because they send me a monthly statement.”
“Not according to our records,” the man says. “But it could be a simple mistake and if you’ll give me some information I can probably correct it for you right away.”
“Who is this?” She demands. I made my payments and I can prove it.”
“I believe you did,’ the man says. “You say you paid by credit card?”
He seems intelligent and has a friendly voice. But, still, Tamara is suspicious.
“When and to whom was your last payment, and for what amount?”
“It was the last of July.”
“Well, if you’d just give me the name and number on the card our office will check it out thoroughly for you and straighten things out without you having to do anything.”
Tamara’s suspicion heightens. She is smarter than the average citizen and refuses to talk to him further so she hangs up. Still, the lingering fear of having someone call almost in the middle of the night, knowing more about her than she knows about him scares her. She checks the doors to her home, making sure the deadbolts are set and there are no unlocked windows. She is actually terrified and unable to sleep. Her big mistake was that she talked to the man instead of hanging up immediately.
What the scam artist was looking for was information about Tamara. Once he had her credit card number and name he would ask for and (usually) get her social security number and address. Identity theft is rampant in the world. It would be easy, then, for him to charge up some large purchases and/or make false identity records and create nothing but trouble for Tamara for the rest of her life.
Scammers have bilked people out of millions of dollars each year.
Law enforcement officials in West Virginia say they’re struggling to track down alleged scammers who use repeated phone calls, threats and fake names to try to swindle consumers out of thousands in supposed debt repayments.
Prosecutors said that the scammers, who often speak with heavy foreign accents, are known for repeatedly calling people at home and at work and threatening them with arrest if they don’t repay supposed debts — debts that, according to West Virginia officials, don’t actually exist.
The scammers operate under names such as U.S. National Bank, Federal Investigation Bureau and United Legal Processing, said West Virginia Assistant Attorney General Norman Googel.
The callers also have invoked the names of actors Denzel Washington and Steve Martin.
Googel said that the scammers have been impossible to track down, but ABCNews.com spoke to one man who claimed to be associated with U.S. National Bank. The man said he worked for Financial Crime Division, a company he said provides services for USNB.
The man refused to give his name and gave little information about his company.
“It’s not necessary that each and everyone knows about Financial Crime Division, and probably one of them is you,” he said.
Be scrupulously aware of who you’re talking to on the phone. Check the call number on the phone printout before answering. Let questionable calls go on your answering machine. Usually these people will not leave a number. Some folks have been bothered so much by scams and salespeople they have left a recording on their phone asking the person to simply “amscray” or leave a number and name if this is not a scam. That way you don’t need to answer these kinds of calls and the perpetrators usually won’t call you back.
Never call back unless you know the person calling.