I occasionally get calls from people dealing with debt collection scammers. The scammers acquire an innocent consumer’s contact information and begin bombarding him with debt collection calls. The callers, who usually call from overseas with a VOIP phone line, make blatantly illegal threats, such as threatening to have the consumer arrested. When I talk to victims of this scam, I usually explain the nature of the scam and tell them that an FDCPA lawsuit isn’t appropriate because there’s no way to identify the scammers. But I’ve never really had a good answer for making the annoying calls stop. Until now, that is, thanks to “Steve”. Steve (it’s not his real name) was an innocent consumer suffering from this very problem. Rather than live with the harassing calls, Steve decided to set up a website with information about how to put a stop to the calls. Here’s his tips for protecting yourself:
* Inform your employer. You are likely getting calls at home and/or at work, so make sure your employer is aware the calls are part of a scam and to not take them seriously. Advise the callers that they are no longer allowed to call you at work. If they continue to call, document the date and time of the calls you received. Save voice mails left if at all possible.
* Change your number(s). For some this may not be an option, for others a one-time number change can be done free of charge.
Be advised – any references you listed on your payday loan application will be contacted. Let those people know that this is a scam, and they can disregard.
* Use Google Voice. Google Voice is a great replacement voice mail system for just about any phone number you use. Messages can be transcribed and voice mail recordings can be saved as mp3 files.
Pro Tip – call the fraudsters with a Google Voice number before turning off your old phone numbers. Make sure when you call you identify yourself so they can start up their script. At any point after they have your information pulled up just hang up. They will then start religiously calling your Google Voice number. At this point, you are free to change your regular phone number(s) and enjoy not having these people ever call you again. (And laugh at the fact these people are basically talking to a brick wall several times a day).
I would only use this approach with a scammer. If you want to stop calls from a “legitimate” debt collector, take a look at this post.