Attorney General issues alert about debt collection scheme

ALBANY, N.Y.  – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is issuing a consumer alert based on complaints received by his office from consumers who were recently contacted by schemers posing as an attorney from the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The consumers received a notice, written on doctored New York State Attorney General letterhead, that claimed to be a “District Court Final Warning” letter.

The notice uses confusing legalese to give the impression that the Attorney General is investigating the consumer for the failure to pay a past due debt.  These false claims may include “Collateral Check Fraud,” “Theft by Deception,” and “Violation of Banking Regulations.”

The letters also threaten criminal action and arrest if the debts are not paid. This alert comes just one week after consumers reported receiving unsolicited phone calls from a person posing as an attorney from the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

Scammers are reportedly contacting consumers by letter, often received as a PDF attachment to an email, which appears to be signed by an actual New York attorney. The letter sometimes pressures the consumer into sending payments via “FTC regulated vouchers” or PayPal.  The letter also directs consumers to call a New York number with a 347 or 646 area code or another number that appears to be based in another state. Yet these numbers may actually connect consumers to someone outside of the United States.

Consumers who have called those numbers have been verbally threatened with arrest, the loss of their job, or worse.  In at least one case, the consumer was told to go to another location and call for additional instructions on how to repay the fake debt.

The letter may also contain a phony email address at the New York State Department of Financial Services, such as dfs.ny.gov@usa.com, or a fake email for another government agency, and use a return address of the New York Civil courts.

Last week, Attorney General Schneiderman issued an alert regarding a separate scammer falsely purporting to be Attorney Sam Wilson from the Attorney General’s Office in order to threaten consumers with a lawsuit and possible arrest. The scammer instructed consumers to call 347-779-0198, a number that is associated with other phone scams nationwide, to communicate about the litigation.

Consumers who believe they have been victims of any debt collection scams are urged to file complaints or call 1-800-771-7755.

The Attorney General’s Office also offered the following tips to help consumers avoid government imposter debt collection scams:

  • Legitimate government agencies will never threaten arrest, job loss, or any other harm for failure to pay a debt;
  • If you owe money, you should receive a notice in writing that identifies the debt collection agency, the amount of the debt, and the name of the original creditor.  The notice should also provide you with an opportunity to dispute the debt;
  • Do not call the phone numbers on any notice that appears to be suspicious.  Hang up on suspicious phone calls you receive and do not provide an unknown caller with personal financial or other sensitive information;
  • If you receive unsolicited email from an address you do not recognize, do not reply, open any attachments, or visit any links associated with the email.

 

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