Better Call Behnken: Polk woman with sick son victim of identity theft, debt collection scam

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Diane Fowler’s son has a brain tumor and money is tight. Now, she’s out $450 after she was conned over the phone.

“She had my name, my address, my phone number, my birth date, my social security number, my checking account that I had used at that time,” Fowler said.

The scammer claimed Fowler owed an old debt to a loan service business. Fowler was confused, because she really did use that company 10 years ago. She knew the debt must be a mistake and so refused to pay, especially since this woman on the phone demanded $2,152.

“I said, ‘how come so much?'” Fowler said. “She said, ‘a judgment amount, processing fees, attorneys fees, somebody to come out here and process me.'”

Then a scarier call came in. Caller ID showed it was from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. It was not.

The company insisted deputies were on their way to her house. She ended up forking over $450 on a credit card, as part of a “settlement.” She said she felt pressured because she couldn’t risk leaving her son’s side.

Scams that involve crooks pretending to be debt collectors are on the rise. It starts with identity theft, and then crooks use that information to make their story sound believable. In some sophisticated scams, they have correct information about debt you may have owed years ago or companies you did business with.

One thing to keep in mind: real debt collection companies will not threaten to arrest you on the spot. Law enforcement will not call on behalf of the debt collector or warn you of an arrest.

If you receive a call seeking money for a debt, ask for the information in writing and check out any court case number yourself. You can also call the company you supposedly owe and double check the debt and that the company hired this particular debt collection company.

Don’t miss the 8 On Your Side Shred-A-Thon on Saturday, where Shannon Behnken will be helping to shred your person documents for free.

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