Scammers Now Posing As Debt Collectors

Scammers Now Posing As Debt Collectors

By Jennifer Kraus. CREATED Jun 5, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's a new warning to keep in mind the next time you answer your phone: scam artists have found a new way to get money from unsuspecting people. 

"I was so scared for my son, I just paid the money," recalled Eugenia Crockett.

Crockett now knows she got scammed.

She got a call from someone claiming to be from the S&P Law Group who said her son owed money and, if she didn't pay up, he'd be thrown in jail.

"If I couldn't come up with the money by 11:30, he'd put out a warrant for his arrest in Rutherford County," Crockett explained. 

She said that she felt she had no choice. 

"I just couldn't let him go to jail," Crockett said. 

So she gave the so-called debt collector her debit card number and he promptly withdrew $800. 

"$800 is a lot of money to us," she shared. 

The Better Business Bureau's Kathleen Calligan told NewsChannel 5 Investigates the BBB has seen a sudden increase in calls about this sort of scam.

"We see parents just terrified that their children are going to be arrested," Calligan explained. 

It's so concerning, Calligan added, it prompted the BBB to issue a warning to consumers about bogus debt collectors using scare tactics to get money. 

Calligan said the thing to remember is they're just scare tactics.

"A bad debt is not a criminal matter -- it's a civil matter,"Calligan said. "No one is going to be arrested over a bad debt. So when they start talking about that, pretty much you can go 99% of the time, 'I'm speaking with a scammer.'"

Eugenia Crockett remembered, "I just believed everything he said."

Crockett said that the caller was so convincing, especially because he seemed to know a lot of information about her son. 

The BBB's Calligan observed, "They know personal information likes dates of birth, where the individual lives."

She said these scam artists often get stolen information from data breaches and will use the Internet to gather more that they then use to make a parent think their child needs help. 

Eugenia Crockett now knows better.

It turns out that the receipt the S&P Law Group sent her has a bogus address in Washington, D.C. And, the number the caller used doesn't seem to go to a real law firm. 

Calligan said, "Every time we called that cell phone number and identified ourselves as being with the BBB, that person answering the phone disconnected."

Now both Calligan and Crockett want whoever is doing this to be stopped. 

"It makes me so mad that I fell for it -- and I don't want anyone else to fall for it," Crockett said.

So how do you know whether the person calling you is a legitimate debt collector or a scam artist?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a fake debt collector will refuse to give you a mailing address or phone number, will try to get your personal financial information, and may pressure you or make threats to get you to give them money. 

Click here for the FTC'S breakdown of what debt collectors can and can't say. There are also tips on how to handle calls that may be scams. 

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Jennifer Kraus

Jennifer Kraus

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Jennifer Kraus is NewsChannel 5's Weekend Morning Anchor and a member of NewsChannel 5's award-winning Investigative Team.