YUBA CITY, Calif. - A Yuba City woman nearly fell victim to a terrifying scam involving a fake debt collector and a phony cop.
Michelle Bertsch received a dozen calls at home and at work on her cellphone in March from a man claiming to be a debt collector. The man demanded Bertsch pay a due balance of $1,395 or pay in installments of $500. But Bertsch didn't owe anyone any money.
"They said 'This is Jack MacIntire from Advance America loan. I'm fixing to press charges against you. Why are you running from paying me? We will fax over documents to the Yuba City Police Department," explained Bertsch.
Bertsch said the supposed debt collector already had accurate information about her, including her entire social security number.
Then, after about a dozen calls from the alleged debt collector, Bertsch received a call from a woman pretending to be a Yuba City police officer.
According to Bertsch, the woman identified herself by name, said she was a police officer with Yuba City Police, and then said "I'm coming to your work, you are getting arrested and sent to jail for seven to 21 days."
Adding to her concerns, Bertsch later dialed the number shown on her cellphone and it truly did connect her with the police department.
However, the police knew nothing about the call supposedly made by an officer.
"It was bad. I was shaken up," said Bertsch. "I hope it doesn't happen to other people. I was pretty scared."
The Better Business Bureau office in West Sacramento has received several calls about debt collection scams.
"These people are out to scare her," said Gary Almond with the bureau. "The police would never do that (arrest her)."
Almond also explained that someone also used technology to "mask" the phone numbers and use the digits as their own.
"They just steal these ID s of legitimate business of government agencies in an effort to twist some arms," said Almond.
Using caller ID to trace the phony debt collector
Thanks to caller ID, Bertsch also captured the number for the person posing as a debt collector.
When News10 called that number, we received a recording to leave a message. No company name was mentioned.
Entering the phone number in Google shows numerous complaints from people who were almost duped into paying after hearing similar threats.
The Better Business Bureau says that number has been used by numerous scam artists.
"It says it's located in the Bronx. But people have gotten calls from it from all over. It's even traced from out of India," said Almond. "All they're doing is dialing for dollars all day long."
PayDay Loan Scams/ Extortion Scams
"What concerns me as a company is they are pirating our name. It's a constant fight we battle on a daily basis," said Jamie Fulmer, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for Advance America. "We warn consumers about the existence of these scam artists."
According to a press release from the FBI, Internet Crime Complaint Center has received many complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. The release stated: "How the fraudsters obtained the personal information (of victims) varies, but in some cases, victims have reported they completed online applications for other loans or credit cards before the calls started."
Growing Number of Phone Scams
Almond says there are a lot more threats made and scams done over the telephone.
"They are scams. Basically they're trying to hustle people, anybody they can shake some money out of," said Almond.
Some of those scams involve people threatening to arrest you or deport you.
"It just goes to show you they will not stop at anything. They will use every effort to separate you from your money," said Almond.
The Better Business Bureau say people need to realize that the police department does not call to collect debts.
You can request debt collectors not to contact you by phone. If they are a legitimate debt collector, they will instead contact you in writing.
What to do if you think you're being scammed
If you think you're being scammed by a phony debt collector:
*Ask for proof of the debt. A legitimate collection agency has 30 days to produce that information.
*Don't give out any personal information. Just verify the information they have
*Contact the Better Business Bureau
*Contact the police department if you feel that you are in immediate danger; Go see an duty officer and report the incident.
*Contact the FTC and file a complaint
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org