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Can You be Arrested for Defaulting on a Payday Loan?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2010 in Blog | 501 comments

Handcuffs

The short answer is, “No.”

A few clients have told me that they’ve received phone calls from a collection agency, threatening jail time for not repaying payday loans. The typical caller identifies himself as a “federal officer” who will be coming to arrest the borrower in the next few hours unless payment is made by phone immediately. Another version involves telling the borrower that criminal charges have been filed in a distant state and the borrower must show up “next week.”

If you get one of these calls, don’t try to settle things with the caller and don’t offer to make any payments. The threats violate the law and you may be entitled to sue for damages. However, the callers are usually located in an overseas call center, so attempting to enforce the FDCPA is next to impossible.

It is not uncommon for scammers to make illegal threats in order to collect a debt. If you are a Wisconsin resident who has been contacted by a phony or a harassing debt collector, contact a local attorney for help in dealing with these people.

UPDATE:

Here’s a USA Today article discussing this problem.

The FBI is also aware of these scams. Click here or here to see what the FBI has to say.

From the FBI site:

“The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) continues to receive complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. [T]he typical payday loan scam involves a caller who claims the victim is delinquent on a payday loan and must make payment to avoid legal consequences.

Callers pose as representatives of the FBI, “Federal Legislative Department,” various law firms, or other legitimate-sounding agencies and claim to be collecting debts for companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Net, or other Internet check-cashing services. The fraudsters relentlessly call the victim’s home, cell phone, and place of employment in attempts to obtain payment. The callers refuse to provide information regarding the alleged payday loan or any documentation and become verbally abusive when questioned.

The IC3 has observed variations of this scam in which the caller tells the victim that there are outstanding warrants for the victim’s arrest. The caller claims that the basis of the warrants is non-payment of the underlying loan and/or hacking. If it’s the latter, the caller tells the victim that he or she is wanted for hacking into a business’ computer system to steal customer information. The caller will then demand payment via debit/credit card; in other cases, the caller further instructs victims to obtain a prepaid card to cover the payment.

The high-pressure collection tactics used by the fraudsters have also evolved. In one recent complaint, a person posed as a process server and appeared at the victim’s job. In another instance, a phony process server came to a victim’s home. In both cases, after claiming to be serving a court summons, the alleged process server said the victim could avoid going to court if he or she provided a debit card number for repayment of the loan.

If you are contacted by someone who is trying to collect a debt that you do not owe, you should:
• Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger;
• Contact your bank(s) and credit card companies;
• Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file;
• If you have received a legitimate loan and want to verify that you do not have any outstanding obligation, contact the loan company directly;
• File a complaint at www.IC3.gov.”

UPDATE (11/19/14):

Some of these scammers have been caught. However, many of them operate out of call centers overseas, and are hard to track down. Read the press release. Do the scripts sound familiar?

UPDATE (3/31/15):

CNN recently had a story about scammers pretending to be from the IRS. Same scam with a twist.

UPDATE (3/31/16):
Another one bites the dust!

UPDATE (10/1/16):
Someone had a little fun with one of these scammers, and posted part of the conversation on YouTube. Caution, there’s is some NSFW language in the video.

Image credit: flickr/.v1ctor Casale