The library received a very interesting call the other day. A voice on the phone told us we were behind on our utility payments and if we did not send payment immediately, they would send someone to shut off our power. Those of you who have been to the law library might understand why this call was an obvious scam: we’re located in the Ventura County Government Center, a large complex with multiple buildings, and we don’t have a separate power supply from the rest of the building we are located in. However, the scammers were so rude, abrupt, and insistent that it’s easy to see why some people are intimidated into sending them money.
As tax season is among us, there will be an equivalent rise in the number of these scam callers claiming to be from the IRS, demanding payment by money order or credit card. Other callers pretend to be from the courts (the Superior Court of Ventura County warned about these scams last April) or the police department. Some even claim to be a relative in need of cash!
Things to remember, based on advice from fraud.org and local police departments:
- Legitimate companies and government agencies will never ask for a money order or wire transfer;
- If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a debt collector, ask for the person’s name and address, the company they represent and the original creditor (if indeed you have an outstanding loan). If they can’t provide this information, hang up;
- If you’re concerned about the status of an unpaid debt, hang up and call the creditor back yourself at the phone number provided on your loan paperwork;
- If the amount demanded is significantly more than the debt you owe, it’s probably a scam;
- Check your credit report. If the debt the caller claims you owe is not listed on there, it’s probably a scam;
- Don’t be intimidated if the debt collector is abusive or threatens legal action or arrest. Request that written notice of the debt be mailed to you and tell them that you do not wish to be contacted again about the debt. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector must respect this request.
Here’s where you can go to report these scams:
- You can report scams online to the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center at www.fraud.org. They maintain a national repository of information and will insure your information gets to the proper investigating authority.
- www.ic3.gov/default.aspx (Internet Crime Complaint Center)
- www.idtheftcenter.org/ (Non profit ID Theft Center)
- www.scambusters.org (Helpful Scam Buster Website)
- www.ftc.gov (Federal Trade Commission)
- http://da.countyofventura.org/ (Ventura County DA’s Office)
If you feel you are the victim of a crime please report it immediately to your local police department.