Phantom debts and fake collection notices

by Nicole Vincent Fleming, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Imagine getting an official-looking letter — with a seal, signed by a judge — that says you owe a lot of money for an unpaid payday loan. Awfully intimidating, right? Especially if it included your correct name, address, and maybe even your Social Security number.

In a new twist on an old scam, criminals are impersonating law firms, judges, and court officials. They send out scary letters and make threatening phone calls about phantom debts to try to convince people to send them money.

So, what should you do if you get one of these nastygrams? No matter how convincing a letter or phone call seems, check it out. Look up the real number for the government agency, office, or employee (yes, even judges) and get the real story. It’s likely to be a scam.

Be suspicious if anyone — no matter who they say they are — asks you to wire money, or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay back the debt. There’s no legitimate reason for someone to ask you to send money that way.

Curious about other imposter scams? Check out some of our previous scams alerts. And if you haven’t already, sign up to get new scam alerts by email.

The complete article can be read or printed online.