Identity Theft

Help! We’re Getting 50 Calls a Day From Scammers

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A reader named Carrie recently wrote to Credit.com about harassing phone calls from a payday lender, wanting advice on how to make the calls stop. Here’s what she had to say:

Hi, we are getting re-occurring calls … 20 to 50 A DAY from various numbers but all asking for the same person (not my husband) trying to get us to sign up for a payday loan. This has been going on for about 2 years now. We would just change the number, but this is our main business phone number, it would literally cost us a ton of money in marketing tools, not to mention the loss of business from not having the number.

We have told them to stop calling, one guy started talking very vulgar to me saying things that I won’t repeat. We recorded this call.

Please help!

We asked Florida consumer law attorney William Howard, of Morgan & Morgan law firm, what his advice would be, and he said that depending on what the caller said that Carrie didn’t want to repeat, she may have cause to contact the FBI — and to let the callers know that she has done so. Recording the calls, and letting callers know they are being recorded, is also a good idea.

“[Rogue payday lenders] are ruthless and disgusting — they break the law, and there is no line they will not cross,” Howard said. He says the majority of the calls are scams. In some cases, he said, the State Department or Federal Trade Commission has also intervened.

Mostly, though, consumers are up against what Howard calls “ghost payday lenders,” often based overseas. The names and numbers may change — and even if you could catch them, they don’t have enough money to be worth suing. These scammers are hoping to scare or annoy you into giving them money. So how do you make them stop?

What You Can Do

Lawsuits are seldom the answer, because although you have a “cause of action,” Howard said, you almost certainly don’t have anyone who is capable of paying. And without that, there is no point in suing.

Howard says a consumer’s best defense may be asking lots of questions, particularly if the callers have been abusive  — he’s heard of callers threatening to burn houses down and harm family members. Ask for the person’s name, not that you can expect an honest answer after such behavior. “But you can say, OK ‘Steve Johnson from Orlando,’ I’m calling the FBI on you.” (If you have been threatened as in the examples above, that’s appropriate.) In some cases, fear that calls are now being monitored will put a stop to them.

Other than that, you can try asking for an address and website, and try to check those out to see whether they are legitimate. And you can ask for verification of any debt the caller claims you owe. A legitimate debt collector will send you something in the mail that will have something at the end indicating that they are trying to collect a debt and any information they obtain from you will be used for that purpose. That “mini-Miranda” warning is required by federal law. However, federal law also requires that they stop calling you when you request it — so you already know you’re dealing with something other than law-abiding citizens if they ignore your requests.

If you’re hoping to verify whether you owe a debt that a caller is asking you to pay, your best bet is checking with the original creditor.  At this point, it’s a good idea to check your credit reports to make sure all your accounts are being reported accurately, and that any collection accounts listed there are actually yours (if they’re not yours, you might be a victim of identity theft).  Monitoring your credit scores along the way can also alert you to past-due accounts being listed on your credit report that require your attention.  You can monitor your credit scores for free on Credit.com, where you can also get an overview of your credit reports.

It’s beyond frustrating to use legal routes to try to challenge people who have no regard for the law and who may be operating outside the U.S. Hopefully, recording calls and trying to get authorities involved will frighten these telephone thugs enough to leave Carrie alone. You’ll find some more creative ideas for how to stop payday loan scammers here.

More on Managing Debt:

Image: Ron Chapple Stock

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