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Scam alert: Court action threatened over "unpaid" debt

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Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com

Scam alert: Court action threatened over "unpaid" debt

By Rachel Garceau. CREATED Nov 4, 2013

Imagine getting a phone call from someone claiming to be with the "Civil Investigations Unit" ordering you to appear in court for a lawsuit connected to an unpaid debt.  Plenty of people are getting that call, and scammers are being more deceptive than ever, and this perennial scam is back in the news with a recent Federal Trade Commission settlement.

Dale Dixon from Better Business Bureau joined Good Morning Idaho to explain how the scam works.  He explains, "You've never been late on a loan or credit card payment, but you start receiving calls from debt collectors. The frequency increases, and you even get a voicemail message that resembles this: 'This is the Civil Investigations Unit. We are contacting you in regards to a complaint being filed against you, pursuant to claim and affidavit number D00D-2932, where you have been named a respondent in a court action and must appear.  You or your attorney will have 24 to 48 hours to oppose this matter.  Call 757-301-4745.'

"The message sounds official, but you are being targeted by a debt collection scam.  These scammers use fictitious names that imply they are affiliated with a law firm."

Dixon goes on to say, "These scammers threaten that if you don't pay, you could suffer serious consequences, such as being sued, being arrested at work, having your wages garnished, or forced to appear in court thousands of miles from home. They call you at home and work, and they often know information about you and your family.

"Despite the threats, these 'debt collectors' don't have any power over you.  Don't give in and pay money you don't owe; it's likely scammers will just be back for more.  The best protection against debt collection scams is simply knowing your rights. Here's a quick overview.  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.  If you think that a caller may be a fake, ask for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Then, confirm that the collection agency is real.  Do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have verified the call.

"Check your credit report for by going to annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228.  This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity under your name.  If the scammer has a great deal of personal information about you, be safe and place a fraud alert on your credit report.

"File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the caller uses threats. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collections from being abusive, unfair or deceptive."

Better Business Bureau has a number of resources to help you protect your identity and money. Find more at their website.