The Office of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is warning residents to beware of a debt collection scam in which callers pose as law enforcement officials or government agencies.
Consumer complaints to the Attorney General reveal a sharp increase in Coloradans receiving threatening phone calls and emails from this particular fraudulent debt collector scam. By using personally identifiable information, including Social Security Numbers, the caller attempts to collect on alleged payday loan debt. Complaints about this scam have increased by 1,350 percent between 2013 and 2014.
Fictitious payday lender names being invoked include ACS Inc., ACS Legal Group, Ace Cash Services, Ace Cash Advance, Advance Cash Service and American Cash Advance. The familiarity of these names, along with strong-arm language like “you are in violation of federal banking regulations,” and use of official sounding agencies such as “United States of attorney” and “state investigation department,” are the most common elements found in the complaints.
“These scam artists pretend to be from companies with familiar-sounding names and use high-pressure demands to get people to pay using prepaid money cards,” explained Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. “The caller threatens to report you to the FBI, FTC and even to your employer if you don’t immediately pay up, however, law enforcement and government agencies do not threaten to arrest or prosecute people for their unpaid debt and do not send arrest warrants via email.”
Suther’s office offered the following warning signs that a debt collection call is probably a scam:
- Threats of arrest or prosecution
- Claims of being law enforcement or a government agency
- Strong allegation language: “Collateral Check Fraud,” “Theft by Deception”
- Typos and grammatical errors: “Court House,” “law suit,” “United Stetes of America”
- Requests amount owed be paid via prepaid card or money transfer
- Requests for personally identifiable information
- Refusal to provide a mailing address
- Refusal to mail proof of debt, referred to as a “validation notice.”
The alert recommended that any consumer receiving such calls should directly ask the caller for his/her name, company, address, and phone number. The AG noted that legitimate debt collection operations will provide this information when asked.