Phony debt collectors raise fear of national data breach

The Better Business Bureau is issuing a national alert about phony debt collectors who are calling consumers and saying they have defaulted on a payday loan and will be arrested if they don't pay immediately.

Claiming to be lawyers, the scammers say they are with the "Financial Accountability Association" or the "Federal Legislation of Unsecured Loans." They have a disconcerting amount of personal information on the people they call.

The BBB is concerned that this may be the result of a data breach. Thousands of people may have had their personal information compromised, and given the scammers' tactics, it appears that those who have previously used payday loan services could be particularly at risk.

According to reports received by the BBB and posted online, the scammers accuse the victim of defaulting on a payday loan and claim they are being sued. The phony debt collector threatens that, if the victim doesn't pay as much as $1,000 immediately via wire or by providing bank account or credit card numbers, he or she will be arrested and extradited to California within the hour to stand trial.

The scammers often have the victim's Social Security, bank account or driver's license numbers, as well as home addresses, employer information and even the names of friends and professional references.

THE BBB OFFERS THE following advice to consumers if they receive a suspicious telephone call about an outstanding debt:

- Ask the debt collector to provide documentation that substantiates the debt.

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

- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the caller is abusive, threatening or otherwise violates federal telemarketing laws.

- File a complaint with the BBB if you believe a debt collector is trying to scam you.

According to complaints online, phone numbers that the scammers are calling from include: (949) 468-5107, (415) 200-0274, (415) 200-0274, (213) 784-5745, (408) 715-1614 and many others.

Kelvin Collins is the president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA Inc. Refer questions or complaints about a company or charity to (800) 763-4222, www.bbb.org, info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org or info@csra.bbb.org.

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