Collections Scammers Outsource Threatening Phone Calls
CHICAGO (AP) — A phone scam in which callers in India posed as debt collectors bilked millions of dollars out of more than 10,000 U.S. residents by using threats of arrest or the loss of their jobs, U.S. authorities said Tuesday in what they described as a first-of-its-kind investigation.
Callers drew on personal data snatched from payday loan websites, Federal Trade Commission official Steven Baker said. More than 20 million calls may have been placed over the past two years, with collectors demanding between $300 and $2,000 per call.
Such a far-reaching fraud with so many millions of calls flooding in from India is something investigators haven’t seen before and was fostered in part by the plummeting costs of international calls, Baker, the FTC’s Midwest director, said.
While federal authorities seem to have put a halt to this one scam by freezing the assets of a California-based business allegedly involved, Baker said other similar scams are almost certainly up and running.
“We think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Authorities have received more than 4,000 complaints about debt-collection schemes in recent years, said Baker. They describe aggressive, foul-mouthed callers, some of whom claimed to be agents of a nonexistent Federal Department of Crime and Prevention.
JanLaree Dejulius, of Las Vegas, was at work at a university office when she got a call from a man who gave his name as Officer Black. He knew one of her relatives hahad taken out a payday loan online. If Dejulius didn’t pay up, he said he would send someone to her work to arrest her, she said.