WORCESTER -- A local resident recently contacted Better Business Bureau of Central New England regarding an unsolicited phone call they received where the caller alleged to be from the FBI. The scammer, who claimed to be an FBI officer, stated that they had been monitoring the consumer's online activity and they are looking to collect on an outstanding payday loan balance. To clear the debt, the consumer must wire transfer money to the officer.
This type of phone call scam has many variations, but all invoke fear in an attempt to get the victim to cooperate. The local victim became very alarmed by the call and at first complied with the alleged authorities and offered to pay by credit or debit card, the officer stated that was not an acceptable form of payment and the money must be wired. The consumer admitted to BBB that they had an outstanding payday loan, but a payment plan was set up with the lender and the alleged FBI agent demanded a balance more than double what is actually owed. The caller also threatened legal action and jail time if the victim did not meet their demands. The caller ID appeared to be spoofed and stated "Federal Investigations" calling from a 786 number, a Florida area code. The scammer had information including the victims name, address, phone number and social security number. After the initial conversation, when the consumer ultimately refused to pay or give any more personal information, the call ended and the scammers have not attempted to call again. The matter was reported to local authorities by the victim.
All too often, BBB receives reports of scammers posing as government officials. There are many variation of this type of scam; scammers may impersonate officials from other government offices, lawyers or other legitimate sounds collection agencies. They often threaten legal action or jail time if the victim does not comply with their demands, and many consumers, out of fear, obey with the scammer's request. "If you receive a suspicious phone call, don't be afraid to ask for more information," said Nancy B. Cahalen, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central New England, "threats and demands are tactics of scammers, legitimate collection callers should be willing to answer your questions and work with you."
BBB offers tips to protect consumers from this FBI phone scam and similar phone scams:
* Do not provide your bank account information, Medicare number, Social Security number or any other personal or financial information to unknown individuals over the phone.
* Wire transfers and prepaid debit transactions cannot be tracked or reversed. Scammers often demand money by wire transfer because it is like sending cash, once the transfer is sent it cannot be undone and the victim is out of the money. Prepaid debit cards are similar to wire transfers, once you give the access numbers to the scammer to remove the funds, they cannot be retrieved. If someone is demanding payment by wire transfer or prepaid debit card, it is a red flag that it may be a scam.
* Contact your local police department to report the impersonation of law enforcement or if you feel threatened by the caller.
* Just because the caller says they are with a branch of the government doesn't mean they are. Take a moment to check your telephone directory, or do a Google search to check if the government entity exists.
* Do not always believe what shows up on the caller ID. Scammers having spoofing technology that can change the name and phone number that shows up. If you are unsure if a call is legitimate, be sure to ask question about the companies name and contact information and research this information before proceeding.
* If a scammer has personal information including your social security number, or you think your identity may be compromised, contact the FTC to report the issue and the three credit bureaus to have a Fraud Alert placed on your report; TransUnion 800-680-7289, Experian 888-397-3742 and Equifax 800-525-6285
* Contact your bank(s) and credit card companies if you believe this information has been compromised
* File a complaint at www.IC3.gov, they monitor and investigate internet crime and schemes.
* If you have received a legitimate loan and want to verify that you do not have any outstanding obligation, contact the loan company directly.
* Before doing business with a payday lender, or any other business, check out the company's BBB Business Review at bbb.org to see its BBB rating, complaint history and more.