CNN is reporting that the FBI has arrested the owner of a debt collection business in Georgia and six of his employees. The collectors in this case were lying to people, telling them that the collectors were Federal agents, and if this debt wasn’t paid the person they were calling was going to be arrested.
There are two things that make this story unusual. First, of course, the arrest of seven people by the FBI. The second, however, is what enabled that arrest — the debt collectors were inside the United States.
It is not uncommon for me to get calls from terrified clients, because they have just gotten a call like this; and some of these callers are very good and very persuasive. In most cases, however, if you could trace the call you would find that it came from a VoIP number — in Pakistan, Eastern Europe or Northern Africa — take your pick.
So, it is really refreshing to see the FBI getting involved in one of these scams when the scammers are within reach.
If you get a phone call like this. The first question I tell my clients to ask is for a mailing address to send a cashier’s check to pay this debt. Now, since these people were in Georgia they might have given out a mailing address; but the overseas scammers won’t. They will tell you that there is no time for that, the debt must be paid right now by electronic funds transfer out of your bank account. I tell my clients to take a deep breath and try to think of any legitimate creditor who won’t take a cashier’s check drawn on a Federally insured financial institution. That is a dead giveaway that you aren’t dealing with someone legit.
The next thing, though, is to try and remember the last time you knew someone who was arrested for not paying their credit cards. Now, you can be arrested for ignoring or disobeying an order of the Court (like failing to appear at a Hearing on Assets); but you won’t get a phone call giving you an out for that. So, keep thinking, the last time you knew someone who was arrested for not paying an old credit card account was when?
Now, consider what it costs a State to incarcerate someone. So, the State is going to do that to collect a debt owed to some debt collector? Really?
The long and the short of this is, if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be collecting a credit card or medical bill, and that person threatens to have you arrested if you don’t pay — and probably if you don’t pay RIGHT NOW. Your first thought really should be that this is probably a scam.