Action Report: Fake Debt Collector Phone Calls

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Coast resident doesn't want to be identified, but we'll call her Mary. She wants to alert South Mississippi residents about the fake debt collector call.

Mary says she received a recording in July that said she needed to call the law office of Goldman, Kessler and Brown, because she owed money.

"When I called back, I spoke to a girl called Carolyn Cole, and she told me that she has a copy of my bank statement and said that they subpoenaed it and it's showing on June 17, of 2010, that they had deposited a certain amount, she wouldn't tell me, into my checking account, and it had defaulted on December of 2010. They turned it over to this law firm for collections," said Mary.

Mary said while she was speaking with the woman, she pulled up her bank statement on her computer and didn't see any discrepancies.

"I asked her to fax me a copy of my bank statement, and when she found out that I had a fax machine, she wanted me to fax my copy, but she verified my social and my bank account number, everything," said Mary. "She knew it all. So, how did she get this information? She just kept demanding payment."

Mary said the women told her that she owed them $2,500.

"I called my bank and said, 'Has anybody subpoenaed my bank statement,' and they said, 'No one,'" said Mary.

Mary says she knew the call was a scam and contacted the Florida State Attorney General's Office since the phone number had a Fort Lauderdale area code. She also called the FTC.

"I contacted the Federal Trade Commission, and they told me to call them back to get a physical address, and if they refused to give it to me I would know they were bogus," said Mary. "When I asked, they hung up on me both times."

She said when she called the law firm back, a recording told her to call a toll free number that advised hiring an attorney and to respond promptly. 

I checked the Florida and New York State listing of all law firms and could not find a listing for Goldman, Kessler and Brown.

I called the number that Mary received and spoke with a purported representative of Goldman, Kessler and Brown. He sounded very professional until I started asking questions.

I told him that I plan on going to Florida and would drop off the money at the law firm office in Fort Lauderdale. When I asked him for the address, he said he didn't know it.

I questioned him and said, "You don't know the address to your office in Fort Lauderdale?"

He said he was located in New York.

He gave me the address, but the address doesn't exist.

Finally, I asked him where he really was located. I said, "You're taking advantage of people."

The man hung up the phone.

Experts advise asking two questions to insure the debt collector is legitimate. First, ask for the company address. If they refuse, experts say it's most likely a scam.

Second, tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written validation notice. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe and your rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the caller refuses to give you the information you requested, the consumer experts say don't pay.

Mary says when she posted her story on Facebook, 13 other people say they received a similar call. She says one person posted that they did pay $2,800 to the bogus law firm.

Mary did the right thing by calling her bank to verify that she didn't owe anyone money, but she still questions how this so-called law firm has all her personal information.

If you receive one of these phone calls, don't immediately send them money. Do some investigating or just hang up the phone.

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