Fake debt collector calls haunts woman

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Marina Garcia remembers the phone calls as if they happened yesterday.

"I was just being harassed. I mean at work, at home, on my cell phone," she said.

The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says, "Debt collectors may not communicate in connection with the collection of any debt with any person other than a consumer, his attorney, a credit reporting agency."

But that didn't stop the debt collector from calling Garcia's co-workers and boss. Perhaps even worse, she was getting calls from a debt collector for money she didn't owe. The collector refused to identify who she owed the money to, other than to say it was a payday lender.

"It's completely bogus. There is no money that they owe and they're just trying to trick someone into paying money that they shouldn't," Joe Ridout from Consumer Action said.

Ridout says this kind of scam is on the rise.

"This scam is exploding right now. We're hearing from more and more people every week about this scam," he said.

"He's claiming I got a payday loan out over the Internet and that it was deposited into my Bank of America account, which is closed and wasn't open at the time he claims that the money was deposited," San Jose resident Tara Lameira said.

Despite that, Lameira said she almost paid the collector, because he knew her Social Security number, driver's license number and other personal information.

"I was really scared. I was going to give them a payment only for the fact my credit card was in my car, so I didn't give them my credit card information, she said.

"All we know is that the Internet payday lenders are the nexus for how this scam is working. We don't know at this point if they are selling the information to the scammers, if they are in league with the scammers or if perhaps they're data base has been hacked," Ridout said.

However they're getting the information, instilling fear in people seems to be part of a strategy in getting them to pay.

"They are making phone calls with the most outrageous claims in violation of the FDCPA. False threats of lawsuits, false threats that a U.S. Marshall going to come to the house and arrest someone," attorney Ronald Wilcox said.

By law, if you request in writing proof you owe the debt, they must stop calling you until they provide that proof. If they don't, you can file a complaint with the state attorney general or Federal Trade Commission.

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