Dear Action Line:
Lately, I have been receiving unusual calls from a caller claiming to be an FBI officer. The person stated they have been monitoring my online activity, and demands that I repay a payday loan to avoid legal consequences. I actually do have an outstanding payday loan that I am working to pay, but the balance the ‘FBI officer’ had said was incorrect. After the call I realized the balance was incorrect, but my first reaction was to pay off the balance. I offered to pay by debit card, but the ‘FBI officer’ declined to accept the card and did not take my card information. The caller stated that I must pay the loan on a pre-paid Visa card, and made it apparent they had some of my personal information. I started to grow very suspicious so I ended the call. I completed online applications for a loan and credit card before the calls started. Now I am concerned that some of my personal information may have been compromised or the possibility of facing legal consequences.
You made the right choice by refusing to follow the telemarketer’s instructions and bringing the call to an end. The situation that you described is not uncommon; we have received many questions from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams in the past. Your concern about your personal information is well intended. How the fraudster obtained this personal information can vary, but it’s possible it was obtained from the online application you filled out.
Here are tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
· Never give your Social Security number—or personal information of any kind—over the telephone or online unless you initiate the contact and you know who you are dealing with.
· Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. The e-mail may include upsetting or exciting but false statements to get you to react immediately.
· Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that request personal information.
· Ensure that your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been applied.
· Check your bank, credit, and debit card statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
· Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file.
· Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger.