Fake debt collector scams on the rise

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By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

EL MIRAGE, Ariz. -- While driving home recently, Cheryl Austin decided to check her voice mail. What she discovered was an alarming message from a man she has never heard of before.

"It was a message stating I needed to call him back,” Austin explained. “There were legal repercussions if I didn't call him back by the end of the day."

Concerned, she called the New York telephone number back and spoke to a man she says was “shrewd, direct and downright intimidating.”

"They were telling me that I took out this loan and never paid it back,” she said. “Now, they are coming after me legally. They're telling me they're going to come to my work and arrest me. If I'm not at work, they are to come to my home and arrest me in front of my family and friends."

Austin said the man demanded $500 to pay off her so-called debt, something she refused.

Even after hanging up, she says the calls kept coming for two days straight.

And the caller not only cursed at her, but he kept mixing in legal jargon.

"Affidavit… they used the word ‘authorities,’” she recalled. “They used words that scared me."

Austin said she knew she did not owe the debt, but said the caller was so intimidating and almost convincing.

Finally, she changed her cell phone number just to stop the harassment.

"It's not fair that people can do this to other people out there,” Austin said.

Her caller was most likely a con man who violated nearly every rule established by the Federal Trade Commission for legitimate debt collectors.

For instance, they cannot use obscene language or repeatedly use the phone to annoy you.

They also cannot say you will be arrested. These are all things the caller used against Austin.

Still, it goes on every day.

Austin said the ordeal has been a real eye-opener and does not want people to be tricked.

"I think that people need to know about this,” she told 3 On Your Side. “If people don't know that they are out there scamming people, then they will fall for it. It's dangerous.”

Remember, there are things debt collectors are allowed and are not allowed to do.

There are also certain hours that they are supposed to call between. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.