Southern California Bankruptcy Law Blog

Debt Collection Scams

Posted in Debt

Frauds R Us bannerAlthough I have written at length on debt collection scams, I am still amazed by the fact that they continue to proliferate.  You’d think the word would get out far enough so that people would be on their guard against these Frauds-R-Us franchises.  Not so.

In yesterday’s (January 22, 2016) L.A. Times, David Lazarus discussed the recent proliferation of scam calls on cell phones.  He quoted Nadege Joly’s comment on the regular cell phone calls she receives from Scamway representatives:  “‘I get a scam call on my cellphone at least once a week,’ she told me.  ‘Each time, they say I owe them money and I’m going to get in trouble if I don’t pay.’”  Nadege’s experience is very common.One interesting twist in the tactics this wave of crooks uses is a tax scam:

An especially popular racket last year was the IRS scam, which involved a call supposedly from the tax agency and a threat of arrest if overdue taxes weren’t immediately paid.  The IRS said this week that such calls are now the most common tax scam. Since 2013, it said, at least 5,000 victims have been bilked out of more than $26 million.

Holy fake tax liability, Batman!  5,000 victims paid out $26,000,000!  That’s an average of $5,200 per victim.  That’s a 16% down payment on a bottle of 50-year old Macallan.

Here’s what the IRS says about this scam:

Note that the IRS will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

For some reason I never get these calls.  Maybe it’s because I’m a bankruptcy attorney.  If you get them, either hang up, or waste the time of the caller by talking about your grandkids, or the latest episode of your favorite TV show.

One scam I regularly get in my email inbox is a request for my services, usually to represent the scammer in a contract matter or a divorce.  Although I have not fallen for the scam, some attorneys have been hit hard by them.  In the scam the potential client ― usually located in some third-world rat hole ― signs a contract of representation and remits a cashier’s check for a couple of million dollars.  The cashier’s checks look very real.  Then the scammer asks the attorney to send a payment of say $20,000 out of the funds to cover some unforeseen expense.  The attorney complies.  Then a couple of days later the bank tells the attorney that the cashier’s check was a fake.  Ouch.

If you owe money and are being harassed, either by legitimate collectors, or by scam artists, consider filing for bankruptcy protection.

And if you are a debtor in the Central District of California, and want to get relief from your creditors, or deal with overwhelming tax debt, contact an extremely knowledgeable and highly skilled bankruptcy/tax attorney to guide you through the process.