Fake Feds Get People to Pay

Have you ever gotten one of these calls? Someone says they’re with a government agency or the sheriff’s office and threatens that you’ll be sued or arrested if you don’t pay a supposed debt.

But really, the people contacting you are imposters looking to scare you into sending them money.

Today the FTC announced a case against a group of third-party debt collectors for allegedly deceptive and abusive business practices. According to the FTC, Federal Check Processing and its related companies would accuse people of check fraud or other criminal behavior and threaten lawsuits, prison, and bank account seizure if people didn’t pay their supposed debts. Instead of telling people they were debt collectors, the companies would emphasize words like “federal” and “U.S.” in their company name, the FTC says, or even claim they were federal or state officers. What’s more, the companies allegedly failed to give people information they’re legally entitled to, or to investigate the legitimacy of debts, even when they were told the consumers didn’t owe them.

If you get a call like this, you might be unsure of what to do. Here are some things you can be sure of:

  • Federal government agencies don’t ask people to send money for unpaid loans. If you still feel unsure, look up the official number of the agency the caller is pretending to represent so you can get the real story.
  • There’s no legitimate reason for someone to ask you to wire money or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay back a debt.
  • Even if a debt is real, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.

by Amy Hebert, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC