Civil Complaint Received: Phone Scam Overview
Scam artists use any method possible to trick their targets into giving out personal information as well as money. Fraudsters sell personal information or utilize it to hack accounts or commit identity theft. Victims who send money rarely, if ever, recover it.
A common scam designed to scare people into complying is the Civil Complaint Received phone scam. The phone scam includes informing a target that he owes a debt. The debt has been turned over to law enforcement for debt collection. If the target does not comply with the request for immediate payment, he will face legal action which could cause him to lose valuable property or be arrested. The fraud continues to work against targets afraid of getting into trouble with law enforcement. Because fear is a powerful motivator, the scam is one of the most lucrative out there today.
Potential victims can prevent being scammed by knowing some important facts. Avoiding scams includes not being pressured into acting immediately on a phone call, even if the call turns threatening. Reporting the call is also essential to curtailing the activity.
How the Civil Complaint Scam Works
Scammers research a target thoroughly before making contact. The purpose of the research is to trick the target into believing a claim has been placed with law enforcement or the court system. Scammers may provide pertinent information to the target, including phone number, name, address, residents of the household, employment, Social Security number (SSN), etc. Much of the information appears on various social media websites. The scam usually takes place over the phone. The caller keeps the information vague, hoping that the victim will supply or confirm information or be tricked into going along with the scheme.
According to the fake debt collector, the victim owes a debt to a credit card, medical facility, or other entity. The debt remains overdue and has gone through the collection process. Lack of payment has caused the debt to be turned over to the civil court. The scammer implies that he is a member of law enforcement, the district court, or the law firm handling the civil action. A telephone number and civil case number may be provided for the victim to call and get more details on the legal proceedings. Of course, the contact information is linked to a cell phone number and is fraudulent.
Upon receiving all pertinent information, the victim is instructed to send payment via wire transfer, gift card, bank account, debit card or other means of untraceable services. If the request is ignored, law enforcement will be sent to confiscate valuable property equaling the amount of the debt. The worst-case scenario is that the victim will be arrested.
How to Avoid the Civil Complaint Phone Scam
Avoiding a civil complaint scam is easy if you know the telltale signs. Red flags of a debt collection scam include the fact that the contact is via telephone, either landline or cell phone. Courts do not contact litigants via phone. Process servers must present the target with legal documents on the civil action along with instructions, including contact information and/or potential court dates.
While some legitimate debt collectors step over the line, most fear being sued for misconduct and/or breaking the law. They must also provide certain information. Below are the signs of a fake debt collection scam:
- The first sign includes being contacted by phone. If you get a live person calls to tell you that you have a civil complaint against you, note the phone number from your caller ID, hang up immediately and block calls from the number. You should report phone scams to your local authorities via their non-emergency line, especially if the caller said he was calling from the district court, sheriff's office, etc.
- The scammer uses a recording which may include threats and/or payment information. The recording may be left as a voicemail.
- The caller acts with extreme urgency. If the target does not comply immediately, he will be served with a lawsuit. The caller issues threats to cause fear in the target.
The truth is that a debt collector will not require payment before service of process has taken place. This requires a person to appear in front of you to hand over the legal documents. A debt collector may attempt to collect a debt as a regular course of action, but will not issue threats.
Reporting a Civil Complaint Phone Call Scam
If you have received a phone call or other contact regarding a fake debt collection attempt, it’s important to report it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FBI make careful note of scams and the perpetrators. The FTC maintains a list of fraudulent names and companies involved in scams. It also publishes a list of formerly “legitimate” companies that have broken the law and have been banned. You can see the list here.
Record the following information before reporting a call. See the steps below:
- Write down the names, dates, and times of the phone call. Include your phone number and if it’s a landline or cell phone number.
- Record the number on the caller ID. Write down any phone numbers provided for return calls.
- Take thorough notes of any conversation(s) with the caller. Include if the scammer has your Social Security number or other personal information, civil case number, bank account information, etc.
- Save any voicemails left by the caller.
- File reports with the FTC Complaint Assistant, your state’s Attorney General, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- For further protection, speak with an experienced consumer protection lawyer. Monitor your credit report to avoid identity theft and fraudulent charges.
Educate Yourself Regarding Phone Scams
As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” Educate yourself on common phone scams and how to avoid them. The FTC publishes updated content on scams. You can also read about phone scams, identify suspicious numbers, and leave feedback CallerSmart's free phone number tracer app. If you don't have an iPhone or iPad you can use our website trace unknown phone numbers, learn about phone scams and help protect others from phone fraud!