The latest mask worn by scamming debt collectors is a real slap in the face, given that the con artists pose as the very state agencies that go after them. At least three attorneys general offices (New York, Virginia and Missouri) have recently issued warnings about being spoofed. Impersonating the attorney general or reps of that official, crooks threaten consumers with arrest unless a supposed debt is immediately paid.
That’s the same bogus line used in ongoing schemes by impostor collectors claiming to be police, judges, lawyers and agents of the IRS, FBI and Federal Trade Commission.
“Pay up or handcuffs” threats can be convincing because these fraudsters often already have your sensitive details — name, address, birthdate and Social Security number. They can get this information from the scammer black market or phony payday-loan websites specifically set up to collect such data.
But don’t be fooled into sending money to threatening collector con artists. Here’s what you need to know as you hang up on calls and delete emails without opening links or attachments:
AGs, cops and feds don’t work on behalf of third-party collectors, much less threaten arrest for unpaid debts (that claim is illegal). Lawyers who are hired by legitimate collectors — debtors can be sued — notify people by mail or hand-delivered subpoena that can easily be authenticated, not by phone call or email.
None of those agencies seeks or accepts a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Those payment methods are requested by scammers because they are easy to redeem and hard to trace. And once sent, those funds are forever lost.
If you really owe, legitimate collectors must send a written “validation notice” within five days of first contacting you. Only scammers won’t provide this document, detailing the debt amount and who is owed, so you can contact the creditor to verify the charges and determine if it really was sent to collections.
Don’t acknowledge, confirm or provide personal or financial information over the phone or Internet; scammers may be trying to fill gaps so they can fraudulently charge existing accounts or open new ones in your name. Legitimate debt collectors must stop calling after you provide a written request.
For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network . You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and gain access to a network of experts, law enforcement and people in your community who will keep you up to date on the latest scams in your area.
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