Fake collection calls are one of the most enduring — and intimidating — scams we see. And now, thanks to caller ID spoofing technology, scammers are posing as FBI agents in an attempt to scare consumers into paying debts they don’t owe.
How the Scam Works:
You answer the phone. The caller ID says “Federal Investigations,” and the person on the other line claims to be an FBI agent. He or she says the FBI is monitoring your online activity, and they know you have an overdue payday loan.
You may actually have an outstanding loan, but the caller is looking to collect far more than the balance. And he/she wants to you to pay by wire transfer or pre-paid debit card. When you balk at the amount, the “FBI agent” threatens legal action and jail. This is especially scary because the caller has your personal information. He/she may even know your social security number, address and place of work.
Despite the threats, these “FBI agents” don’t have power over you. Don’t give in and pay money you don’t owe; it’s likely scammers will just be back for more. Below is advice on how to deal with these intimidating calls.
What to Do if the “FBI” Calls:
- Remember, wire transfers and prepaid debit transactions cannot be tracked or reversed. Scammers often demand money by wire transfer because it is like sending cash, once the transfer is sent it cannot be undone. Prepaid debit cards are similar, once you give the access numbers to the scammer, they cannot be retrieved.
- Just hang up and don’t call back. It is tempting to get the last word, but you may end up giving scammers information they can use later.
- Contact your local police department to report the impersonation of law
enforcement or if you feel threatened by the caller.
- Don’t believe caller ID. Caller ID spoofing makes it very easy for callers to pretend to be someone else. Scammers have also posed as everyone from immigration authorities to utility company representatives to local police.
- Ask the debt collector to provide official “validation notice” of the debt. Debt collectors are required by law to provide the information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
For More Information
Note: Thanks to the BBB of Central & Western MA and Northeastern CT for their investigation of this scam.