I received a phone call from an attorney who said I was delinquent on a payday loan and would be arrested within hours if I didn’t make a payment. He knew my name, address, credit card and bank account names.

I don’t remember ever taking out a payday loan, but now I’m really scared. I tried asking questions about who he was and what company he represented, but he wouldn’t give me a straight answer. What should I do?

Take a deep breath and relax. You are not going to jail over what appears to be a non-existent debt.

The Better Business Bureau has fielded a number of calls from people sharing a similar experience. That’s why the BBB is sounding an alert about phony debt collectors calling people in Idaho, claiming they have defaulted on a payday loan and will be charged with check fraud or arrested if they don’t pay immediately.

The scammers claim to be lawyers and say they are with a number of different law firms. The “attorneys” have a disconcerting amount of personal information about their potential victims including name, address, previous loans, references, and on occasion, Social Security numbers.

According to reports received by the BBB, the scammers accuse the victim of being in default on a payday or title loan and they are being sued. The caller threatens that, if payment is not received immediately, an affidavit will be issued to the court for federal check fraud charges. The scammers demand a debit or credit card or for the victim to purchase a pre-paid check card to make payment.

Just as you explained, other potential victims also report the caller refuses to provide a location and occasionally will not provide the name of the organization they represent.

BBB offers the following advice if you receive a suspicious telephone call about an outstanding debt:

• Ask the debt collector to provide official documentation to substantiate the debt. Debt collectors are required by law to provide the information in writing. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide information, hang up.

• Do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have confirmed the legitimacy of the call.

• Check your credit report by going to annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228 to check and determine your outstanding debts or any suspicious activity. If the scammer does have a great deal of personal information, place a fraud alert on your credit report.

• A collection agency must be licensed in Idaho. If they are violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or do not have a license, file a complaint with the Department of Finance (888-346-3378 or finance.idaho.gov).

• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online if the caller is abusive, uses threats or otherwise violates federal telemarketing laws.

Bottom line: Don’t hesitate to turn to the BBB to file a complaint and gain peace of mind if you believe a debt collector is trying to scam you.

• Dale Dixon is the president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau. Find the BBB online at www.bbb.org or call the Idaho Press Tribune-BBB ActionLine at 947-0468.

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