What to do about a potential financial scam?

UPDATED: Aug 17, 2011

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What to do about a potential financial scam?

A person contacted me from what they said was the “law and investigation department” and told me I had a financial fraud case against me. I wrote down information and wasn’t sure if this was a scam. I need help with this type of situation because he told me that if I don’t make a payment I will end up in jail. He also said my SSN out and I was surprised of the numbers he said.

Asked on August 17, 2011 Hawaii


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I assume that you owe an outstanding debt, such a a credit cars bill. This is how the caller would have most probably obtained your SSN. If you owe not such a debt/bill then you can ignore the call. However you should put the 3 major credit reporting agencies on notice that someone has obtained your SSN and other personal information. The agencies can then take measures to make sure no accounts are fraudulently obtained in your name (also check your credit report to check as to whether or not this has already been done). You will also want to inform your state's Attorney General's office and/or your local police department of all of this.

If you do owe a debt/bill, then this is an illegal attempt to collect. People no longer go to jail for owing money. Debtor's prison went out about the time of Charles Dickens. A person who has borrowed money cannot be threatened with criminal action for non-payment; that is unless they committed fraud in obtaining the money. That would be a crime. For example, if they took out a loan with no intention to repay it (and if a creditor makes that claim they would have to prove it). Absent that, neither a debt collector or creditor may threaten a debtor with imprisonment or the possibility of criminal charges. The fact is that these empty threats are made all of the time. If such threats are made, you could actually bring suit against the creditor/collector.  Additionally, they cannot harass or otherwise use intimidation tactics.  That's against the law. However, this doesn't mean that you may or may not owe the money. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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