Law enforcement warns of debt collection scams

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Pike County Sheriff’s Department is warning people to be cautious of some bill collectors who could be falsely identifying themselves.

According to Sgt. Sam Mallory, the department recently investigated a case where an elderly woman was contacted by a collection agency representative who said she was calling to collect a debt the woman owed on a credit card.

The woman was suspicious and contacted Sheriff Russell Thomas before she made any sort of payment.

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“They try to catch you off guard and make you wonder if you really do owe something,” Mallory said. “If they call with an unpublished number, that’s the biggest tip off right there – or if the company has an unknown name.”

Mallory said Thomas first called the company and questioned them. Then Mallory took over to investigate further. Mallory found that the company, Landmark, had no presence on the Internet and the number wasn’t published.

“Thankfully, she didn’t give any more information to the caller than what they already had on her,” Mallory said.

The Federal Trade Commission website keeps track of bogus collection agency numbers and Mallory said there were about 60 pages of those numbers.

The FTC site warns that companies pretend to be legitimate agencies and even sometimes tell people they’ve won a gift to Walmart, GMAC, Sears or other stores. Some fake companies even solicit information via text messages with a “promotion” offering to send gift cards to Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

Mallory said, any legitimate company that calls will be able to leave contact information so you can return their call after researching your debt. They should also be able to tell you specifics about who you owe and the amount you owe.

Many times, Mallory said, scammers will threaten legal action or tell the victim the amount of money they owe will increase unless paid, right then.

If you feel uncomfortable, Mallory said, don’t feel pressured. Take the caller’s information and look the company up online. Also, check the number against those on the FTC site. If there is still worry about the legitimacy of a claim, contact local law enforcement officials.

“Once they get your information, they will target you in other ways,” Mallory said. “You can’t just trust people.”