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Phantom debts and fake collection notices

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Imagine getting an official-looking letter — with a seal, signed by a judge — that says you owe a lot of money for an unpaid payday loan. Awfully intimidating, right? Especially if it included your correct name, address, and maybe even your Social Security number.

In a new twist on an old scam, criminals are impersonating law firms, judges, and court officials. They send out scary letters and make threatening phone calls about phantom debts to try to convince people to send them money.

So, what should you do if you get one of these nastygrams? No matter how convincing a letter or phone call seems, check it out. Look up the real number for the government agency, office, or employee (yes, even judges) and get the real story. It’s likely to be a scam.

Be suspicious if anyone — no matter who they say they are — asks you to wire money, or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay back the debt. There’s no legitimate reason for someone to ask you to send money that way.

Curious about other imposter scams? Check out some of our previous scams alerts. And if you haven’t already, sign up to get new scam alerts by email.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


I know this post is a few month old, but I live in Atlanta, GA and at one time there was a legitimate financial company in town using the name Highland Financial. The company I was working for at the time did a small amount of business with them. That was several years ago and I seriously doubt that this is the same company, but I find it interesting that the name they chose used to belong to a legitimate company. Something else to watch out for.

Received a call from a family member telling me some company called them looking for me. I called the company back and realized something didn't sound right. All I asked was can you tell me what this is regarding. The person started talking about something thing changed to something else. Next thing I know he is yelling at me and being belligerent so I said good bye. Called my family back and told them it was a scam. And hung up with them then my family calls me saying that the company called them back and threatened me. Saying they were going to break my arm and do all these things. I called the police this is unacceptable!

But how do I get them to stop?

I received a hard inquiry on my credit about a year ago. Looked it up and it belonged to a Platinum and associates in brea. I receive a call about a week later stating that They needed to serve me and were going to send me something if I didn't respond withing 24 hours no ignored them. Now here we are a year later and they started calling me, my work and my mother with the same claims. They've called my work several times and it's really irritating. Sadly, In my line of business I hear about such scams almost everyday.

The company now is claiming to be PFC capital group and gave me a file number and internet phone number. To call back.

on February 6th I got a call from 8552642060 they said i had taken a loan thru cash advance online services. I said i never accepted any loans they said i owed them 798 dollars and if i didnt pay it today i was going to be arrested in an hour. I freaked out they had the last 4 digits of my ssn and my place of employment. I called the credit bereau systems and submitted id theft. I also called the police and bbb. i called my social security department as well as the fbi. well now they are calling my work and tyng up the phone lines. im now even getting calls from 18886839683 and 2064523951 all of these were listed under scam. I am afraid i will loose my job but i am at my witts end. any suggestions.

You may want to contact your state Attorney General's office and report this experience to them. Many states have their own debt collection laws in addition to federal laws. Read more tips on how to handle fake debt collectors here.

I received a call from a guy at my work claiming that I owed a payday loan from 2010 and what did I plan on doing about it, I asked him what was his number and I would call back after work. He called my job several times that same day before I could get off which alerted me that this was a scam. He said he was a company called DFF and number was 567-244-2633. After I got off called this number which I had looked up before hand and saw that it was an Ohio number but when I asked where they were located he said California. I told him look I know you are a scam and this number is an Ohio number and you change your names and numbers often and you call peoples work numbers harassing them and I know you are from India and this line is being tracked. He got so angry with me and called me names I cant say on here and hung up on me. The next day he called my work and had the phone system tied up for a while and was robo calling where when I hung up phone he would keep calling my job, and I work for a large company. He was calling my co-workers names when they answered the phone too. He told me that he was going to keep on calling until I got fired unless I told him what I intended to do about this loan he said I owed. My company was able to do something to stop this clown when he calls now which I cant mention because these scumbags do look at all these sites. He called my job for 3 days harassing me but now I don't know if he calls or not because I don't get them. HaHa beat him at his own game dingbat. Don't send any money to these criminals, you wont be arrested at work and you have no lawsuits against you.

I believe I've gotten letters to that effect, but also know that bills have been hidden or taken in replace. Altogether I believed I've been scammed or have erroneous bills totally over $8000. I've had doctor offices file too late, give more shots than needed, hospital bills that insurance didn't pay, and so on. The credit reporting agency can only do so much.

I am receiving phone calls from 716 210 8027 describing them as tax crime unit of irs and if i do not pay certain amount right away the way they want,irs will let the hell fall on me.where to report this.

You should report your experience to the IRS. The help line number is 1-800-829-1040.

I have been receiving calls from a providence legal group says my husband owes a payday loan. they call from an unknown or private number. the number given to call back is always different 1-855 number. when asked for statement through mail i get an email. I called back to day and said i need it in the mail not email he said they don't do that and i can take my chance in court then hung up. he said his name was Michael Jones from providence legal group. i don't know if its a scam

This is indeed a scam. Michael Jones has called me about a bogus debt from 2012. Informed him this is false. Hung up on him. Now some lady names Ms Poole calls about wage garnishment and court date. Looked up the # and its a scam. Also did a search for any pending cases in my name or SSN and nothing comes up for my state.

I received a litegation letter from Russo & Russo Finacial, claiming I owe 1,600.21. I have no known debts and upon looking these guys up, there are many accounts of similar fraudulent experiences posted on various blogs. This is criminal, control by fear.. It's really sad. :(

I just received the same call. They told me the exact same thing and when I called back I acted as if I was a debt collector, he told me " I know this is scam, im not paying you". This goes to say they are a scam. -1-888-683-9683

I had a message on my home land line answering machine. The man had such a heavy foreign accent that I could hardly make out what he was saying. He said I or my attorney must call back today or I will have to suffer the consequences. He said his name was Michael but I am sure he was not American. He left a number of 909-666-5475. Unfortunately, I could not call back from my private unlisted land line number because I do not have long distance and I had to use my cell phone which has a public number on it. A man answered, with a heavy accent and a different American name, and said he was with the crimes prevention unit. I stated I was going to report them to the General Attorney's Office for telephone fraud and he asked me who I was, I repeated the same thing, he asked me who I was again, I repeated the same thing and then he hung up. Now though I am worried they have my cell phone number. Previous to this, for a couple months, I would get a call about a loan I applied for and I argued each time with the foreign person that I never applied for a loan! How do I turn these people in?

The number that called you (909) is San Bernardino,CA area. There are no heavy accents in that area other than hispanic.

My husband received a phone call today at work and one at home. I looked the number up (785-330-5326). It seems to be a number from somewhere in Kansas. He was told that he would send the police within two hours to have him arrested for a $900 debt from a cash advance place. First off, it sounded like he was reading off of a script, second, he was extremely hard to understand. My husband is completely freaked out and wracking his brain thinking he took this loan out at one time. I know he didn't.

I got call from 6789643279 telling me that att owe me $28 or they will cancel my internet. So, I gave them my debit card number with security code but did not provide any pin. then, some one called again from 4047818730 to confirm my billing address. when checked my internet account, there was no bill due. and they already charged me $300 before I could report my card stolen. Beware of these phone numbers. they even provided me my last four digit of my bank account number. I do not know how they got this information. If some one calls you telling you that your account is past due, please call the customer service of that company and find out out whether you are really past due.

I received a call today from a Mr Mitchell and he stated he was looking for my niece. He stated she wrote a fraudulent check for a company she had never heard of and he would come looking for her at her home or on her job if she did not contact him asap.

I received a call on my cell on November 13, 2013 with a message left from a Jeffrey Douglas stating he was an independent locator legal process server from the local liaison (s)
office legal department -no firm name calling on behalf of Brinkman and Associates phone number: 866-232-7216 claiming his office received 2 complaints on my name and social filed against me. I returned the call and was put through to their legal department. They told me it was for pay day loan with a check from a closed account written in 2003, cashed in California. I never have been to one of those in my life, nor have ever been in that city. I was also living in the South at the time I was supposedly in California cashing the check.They insisted I did write it and told me the name I wrote down as a was my former father-in-law. At the time I supposedly wrote the check I had been remarried for over 10 years! I told them this. They then said well maybe he wrote it. I told them that he was well off and never left his state and if they allowed a man to cash a check in my name, and I am a woman then I have grounds to sue them. I asked for the information to be mailed to me - they had my social and address, they said they already had sent it to me in the mail. I never received anything, nor would they give me any contact info. They said unless I paid what now equals to a little over $ 500.00 I would be served at work or home just as they stated on the message and taken to court. They never showed. I thought I was done with them but today a Lenore Reynolds , a locator from the local liaisons office was contacting me on behalf of CCR & Associates at 8666762361. In the message she stated that she needed to have me, "sign some legal documentation." She said that I could contact her within 24 hours because she was coming to my place of employment to have the documents signed. She ended the call with , "Good Luck."

I'm new to this forum, but it looks like 99.9% of these calls that you receive are scams. There are two ways to handle these: 1) Hang up 2) String them along. Depending on when the call comes, my usual choice is #2 ... oh so many fun options. My favourites (note spelling, I'm Canadian) are the ones purporting to be from MS, government agencies, and especially the ones telling me that my computer has been infected. Note, I'm a retired network security engineer ... so I usually know what I'm talking about with these dimwits ...if anyone wants to string them along and gets stuck, all you heve to do is say " hmmm, I just don't know how these "viruses/malware/bugs/etc" can affect me on my LINUX system

i keep getting calls from this number: a robo call 866903328 leaves a message with a case number to call another number. then i get a wireless call from 5857306445, 2813050252, 5857306182. i believe they are all the same making calls. a guy leaves a message with no accent but does not leave a name but states is about check fraud, my social and by bank which he knew by name. he also called family members and a friend but they were told about this scam. whatever you do, notify the family members about the calls and not to speak to them.

What people are not aware of is, when you submit online applications for payday loans, some of the websites sell your personal information to third party lenders which some of the are scammers. They in turn and call and try to run a scam. I have received numerous phone calls from 785-330-5326 which say I have criminal charges pending. I know I don't because if that's the case I would be in jail right now awaiting trial. The calls didn't start until after I put in applications for a payday loan online. The guys is Indian. They made up a law firm. The calls are recorded so when they do get you to verify your SSN they can use that against you. I had to tell them I would get the FBI to investigate them and that they weren't fooling anyone. Until I get served an actual notice by a constable I'm not falling for this. Having unpaid loans does not result in a criminal case. The worst they will do is have that debt reported to the credit bureaus showing that it is a charge off or an unsettled debt. That is not grounds to go to jail.

I received a call today saying I had a payday loan from 2009. The caller stated that the check was from Chase Bank. The problem is, I never banked at Chase but did remember that the bank I was using at the time was indeed bought by Chase. I did use payday loans back then but have since filed and paid for all outstanding debt in my chapter 13 bankruptcy. I have talked to my local Police Department to informed them of where I was if it was true so they could arrest me. I was promtly called back by the check fraud department and told that it was a scam and to put a freeze on my credit at all three credit reporting agencies. The thing I did do that really result in the called getting upset with me was I started laughing at him and asked for a number I can call him back at.

I got two calls today. Same person with thick Asian Indian accent with different American sounding names. One on the landline went to VM and another on the cell. First was about some remaining debt and then he the police is coming to arrest me(646 no.) and the second from the IRS(888-724-4819). When the second call came I picked it up and I told him that the person he was calling for is not here and he said he would like to leave a msg. As soon as i ended the call, he promptly called back and left a VM about an IRS debt and the std spill of geting me arrested.
Dumb scammer at least stick to one story for a person. Had a good laugh. These crazy people need to be arrested though !

I continue to get calls from and unknown number. the Voicemail they leave tells me to call 877-423-5836 who say they are a "federate specialist". I called few times, always different people. They said I owe $150, then $75, and lastly $2850 for debts that they can't tell me who its for. when I asked for them to send me a bill, they cuss and swear, yelling PAY IT NOW. I laughed and told them to quit calling me. The calls keep coming and the voicemail keeps showing up. Verizon can't even block it because its VoIP and masked to be unknown. what garbage.

I get calls from the same number...crazy...How can we get them???

I keep getting calls from CENTURY CLAIMS SERVICES from different numbers (today it was from 303-835-6940 and 480-336-2607) claiming I owe money from a payday loan (I do not) and that a warrant has been issued for my arrest. Same scam as many have written above. No paperwork, no correct information on me regarding employer, address, bank account. But they did have the last four digits of my social security number that they wanted me to confirm, which I refused to do so. These people are belligerent, abusive, unscrupulous, and relentless. I keep filing complaints and hope that they will be investigated. From now on, I will hang up and not engage. I recommend anyone facing the same thing to continue to publicize to protect others and demand the FTC to do something to stop this fraud.

I just got two calls from them this morning. On the first call, the woman identified herself as someone working in an attorney's office. According to her, I had taken a payday loan out and it had defaulted. She knew a couple of addresses I'd used in the past, along with the last four digits of my SSN. This worried me, as she also listed two of my siblings.

After reading a few complaints online (I Googled the number) I called them back and told them that I'd done some research and found out that they're scam artists. Even this didn't stop them.

Here's hoping the FTC finds these bottom-feeders and refers their 'business' practices to the Justice Department. I'd like to see them prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law.

Received call from Ramon Scott from number 8558945103 claiming he is from the BCI of Maryland. What he didn't know is that Maryland government was all closed due to bad weather. Later I was given the addresses of 1401 Bayview CT Ft myer FL 32416 and 101 highway 28 West ft Myer FL 11062 all false addresses might I say. Later got call from my boss that this dude was harassing them about the debt as well it was a fraud/scam I told my boss. I later called them back to tell them I was reporting them and to stop calling me if they keep refusing to provide me with written documentation of and debts due. I reported everything to the FTC and intend to report it to the authorities as well. Also received fake calls from my office number and 911.

I have been reading several statements from people about the payday loan scam. I have been getting unknown calls for the past two days.. One number I was to call was 202-803-5785. Today was to call 202-417-2021. I googled both numbers and found numerous complaints. They call and say it is about bank or check fraud and to call back before the end of the business day or my wages will be garnished and they will contact my place of business to verify I work for them, and I will be arrested.. I read thru the comments of people that called this company back and all said was for a payday loan, and they owed 1500 dollars.. They would settle for 500. Most people knew it was a scam. Some people fell for it because they were harassed, threatened and sworn at.. I even ran a reverse phone number on white pages and it came up invalid phone number.. I don't know what to do to stop this but this is getting out of control. It is a scam and now I will have to contact HR to let them know about this.. They won't give out their address and supposedly these are Washington DC area can we stop them if they can't be found?? They are frightening and scamming people..

Once your info is online for anything it's available for these scammers! I too had online pay day loans back in 2011 but I paid every one of them off! Now 3 years later these scammers are calling my ex husband from unknown numbers etc... Saying that have a legal matter against me and if I don't pay today that I'll be used and arrested. It's a scam! I've contacted my local police and told them about. They said it's def a scam! Do not pay anyone over the phone that demands and threatens you to pay them over the phone immediately. All of my online loans are paid and I know that! All of the sudden these scammers are saying I owe money. Do not pay them! Report it to your local authorities and file a complaint with the FTC!!

I received a threatening call from a man who said they had a sealed document that he is being paid 150.00 to deliver to me. He said that he is going to come to my house or place of work to deliver the package. He went on about going to authorities to deliver the package. He gave me the number 855-262-7547. I called and it went to the voice mail of Paul Matthews.

When you receive a call you suspect it’s from a scammer, the  best thing to do is hang up the phone and file a complaint with the FTC. The more details you give in your complaint the better: phone number, time, name, what they said. The FTC's complaint database is available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad and it's used to investigate and track these type of calls.

I have received calls from a recording that they are looking for me...said I am a defendant in a case and need to contact me...I know I am not involved in any case but they call and make it sound important. I would think if they were looking for me they would not give a recorded msg..They have also started calling my cell phone. I looked up phone number and it is a scam. Anyone else get these calls???

Received a call 2 days in a row plus an email stating that I owed money for a cash advance that I never initiated. Said that I had "24 hours to respond or else . . .". I called the number (215-353-5040 out of PA) from NC IB@USA.Com Cash-in -advance and spoke with "Tim Morgan" department manager of their "legal department". Very think accent from India and very noisy in the background. When I explained to him that I didn't receive a loan from his company, he said that he didn't have "any other information, only that I owed his company money". REALLY? The legal department doesn't have any information? I asked him to mail me the documentation that SHOWS i accepted a loan and howI agreed to pay them back. Once again, he didn't have that information. He proceeded to tell me that he would have to take it to the "next step" and have brought before the judge, etc. I said that if you bring me in front of a judge, then you'll HAVE to provide the documentation that SHOWS I accepted a loan from your company. He then said he had to hang up because I was interrupting him. Damn right! I was telling him about the police report that I was going to file because I was a victim of fraud and a credit scam and that my accuser could not provide me with any evidence that I had taken out a loan. We'll see if I get another call.

There a collection agency!! None of you dead best debters are gonna pay your bills unless your threatened!!! Only scum bags take out payday loans! You know u all owe the $$. PAY YOU BILLS PEOPLE & U WONT GET A CALL FROM COLLECTION AGENCIES!! You people are the scammers!!!!

Actually, the callers are not collection agencies -- they are scammers who are impersonating lawyers and officials. Anyone can be a victim of these calls. The debts are just as fake as the people making the calls. Virtually no legitimate business or debt collector will require that you pay using a prepaid card.

The fact that scammers like you are trolling complaint sites like these only serves to reinforce the message to those who look here and elsewhere for some relief. What you do is illegal, and slowly but surely the FTC is sueing you and your "parent" companies" out of existence. There is legislation in the works to add some criminal bite to the current FTC/FDCPA law, so I and others will have the additional satisfaction of knowing people like you and the outrageous statements like the one above will land people in jail. Sat off these sites - some of us are actively hunting you now.

Yeah you know everything. That's why I get to be called by one of these bloodsuckers even though I've never left a bill unpaid in my life. Go be self righteous elsewhere.

if it was just a collection agency I wouldn't mind paying the bill but knowing it is someone who is threatning to take my family ill pass. if they want the money that bad they can find a legit way to go about it

You are an ass people have been up against it sometimes it's the only way they can make ends meet.
You need to step off many of these people have paid off or never incurred the debt and they are being illegally harassed. For you to say what you have said it's ridiculous.

Im not sure if your uninformed or just ignorant, but if you read, you will see that only about 7% of us EVER EVEN TOOK OUT ANY TYPE OF PAYDAY LOAN!!! Im one of the 93% that have NEVER taken any payday loans and was sent emails from '" THE ATTORNEY GENERAL 's OFFICE", (fraudulent), stating the very same thing!! I forwarded the email to the FBI, California Attorney General, White House, OCT, filed a complaint w/Etc, ETC.!!!! Wake up!!

Learning how to spell and the correct use of grammar should be a priority for those who wish to try and educate others. They're* debtors* you're* gonna = going to* u = you* you = your* won't*

Three calls received: two from 8067314844 (March 28 and 31, 2014), one from 8557608948 all calling for an "Amy <followed by garbled last name>". From Myers (or Meyers) Associates at 3027030752. List case number and report calling about my "allegations" and requesting call back to 302 AC number if I wish to dispute allegations.

When these scam calls come through, and they announce their purpose, I immediately say "this call may be monitored for quality and may be recorded for evidence purposes". The shortest measurable element of time before they hang up.

(415)230-2036 Got a call from an unidentified number (sent to voicemail) saying that I needed to call back. Claimed I had 2 cases pending against me and I had 24 hours to call and resolved it. Also stated they were going to file with "the local dispatcher" to have confidential paperwork delivered to me that I would need ID to receive.
Very, very obvious scam. Almost laughed when the message said paperwork would be filed with a dispatcher.

I received the EXACT same call today from the same number. They had my name, last 4 digits of my social security number, and the name of a very old debt (over 15 years old) from Mervyns Dept Store. I almost fell for it.

Received a call from this number today trying to deliver papers for a lawsuit . Didn't sound right especially call coming from across the country. Obvious scam . I was able to verify that thanks to this site and your post . Thanks

Got call today from this number for family not residing with me . Same story - obvious scam- do not fall for it


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