Sheriff Grady Judd is warning residents to be aware of a new scam that the Polk County Sheriff's Office and several other local law enforcement agencies are seeing reported -- a payday loan telephone collection scam.
Scam artists call victims claiming that they are delinquent on a payday loan, and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences. The scam artists purport to be law enforcement or federal government representatives, or from various law firms and other legitimate-sounding agencies. They claim to be collecting debts for companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Net, and other Internet check-cashing services.
According to the victims' complaints, the scam artists have accurate data about them, including their Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, employer information, bank account numbers, and the names and telephone numbers of relatives and friends.
How the scammers obtained the personal information varies, but in some cases victims have reported they completed online applications for other loans or credit cards before the calls started.
The scammers relentlessly call the victims' homes, cell phones, and places of employment. They refuse to provide any details about the alleged payday loans and become abusive when questioned. The scammers have threatened victims with legal actions, arrests, and, in some cases, physical violence if they do not pay. In many cases, the callers harass victims’ relatives, friends, and employers.
Scammers have instructed victims to fax a statement agreeing to pay a certain amount, on a specific date, via a pre-paid Visa card. The statement also includes a declaration by the victim that he/she will never dispute the debt.
Here are some tips to help you if you are a victim or think you may be a victim of a scam such as this:
■Verify all of the caller's information. Then use the Internet -- type in the phone number provided and/or called from, the name of the company, and the caller's name. Include the words 'scam' or 'fraud' in your search. Often there will be numerous listing showing complaints regarding the scams.
■Notify your banking institutions.
■Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file.
■Contact your local law enforcement agency to report the scam.
■File a complaint at www.IC3.gov. and with www.FTC.gov.
Tips to avoid being a victim of any telephone or email scam:
■Never give your Social Security number—or personal information of any kind—over the telephone or online unless you initiate the contact.
■Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. The e-mail may include upsetting or exciting but false statements to get you to react immediately.
■Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that request personal information.
■Ensure that your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been applied.
■Check your bank, credit, and debit card statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
■When you contact companies, use numbers provided on the back of cards or statements
Check all listings: company names, phone numbers, and addresses, on the Internet placing the words 'SCAM' or 'FRAUD' behind what you are looking for. This will help to determine if others have already reported a similar incide.
Legitimate debt collectors are required to follow federal regulation along with state laws. If you have questions regarding debit collection practices contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov.