The North Carolina attorney general is the latest public official to sound a warning about illegal debt collection scams. Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina raised the warning flags in a statement Friday. He said that his office had received dozens of complaints recently about debt collection calls that did not seem legit. A distinct pattern developed in which the callers would purport to be from groups that sounded vaguely governmental, like the “Federal State Bureau of North Carolina.”
When Cooper’s office began to investigate, it found that most of the victims had recently taken out payday loans on the Internet. Further, the office said that the calls appeared to be coming from overseas. The warning is the latest in a series of official acknowledgements that there is a major difference between legitimate debt collection calls and ones initiated by scammers.
Late last year, the Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued his own warning about phony debt collection calls also related to payday loans. Various Better Business Bureau offices have also been sounding alarms within their jurisdictions.
The scammers accuse consumers of defaulting on payday loans, and in some instances the perpetrators threaten legal action. The perpetrators call consumers and threaten them by stating if they do not pay immediately via wire or by providing bank account or credit card numbers they will be arrested. Additionally, the perpetrators often call themselves federal investigators and use methods of fear and intimidation.
The perpetrators may possess the consumer’s Social Security number, bank account number(s), driver’s license number, home addresses, employer information, and even names of personal friends and professional references prior to initiating the telephone call. The press release provided by Attorney General Hood reminds Mississippi consumers they are protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and provides suggestions consumers can use to protect themselves from scams such as the one mentioned above. The suggestions include:
- Ask the collector to provide official documentation in writing confirming the debt;
- Do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until the legitimacy of the call has been confirmed;
- Review recent copies of consumer reports to ensure the alleged debt is not affecting your credit;
- Use caution when disclosing any personal information, particularly on a website.
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