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April 29, 2015

Things That Scare Me: Getting Personal Calls at Work

“Do you want a call from an Erin Davis? She said it’s regarding a personal and confidential matter.”
Huh? I was confused. Why would I get a call regarding a personal matter at work, and what was personal and confidential, anyway? Could it be Dylan’s school? Oh god. 
“Yeah, I’ll take it.” I nervously told the receptionist. The line clicked and the call was transferred. 
"Hi, this is Rebecca.”
Erin wasted no time demanding confirmation of my identity, which I had no intention of providing. 
Hold on. What exactly is this regarding?” I pressed suspiciously. 
“I’m calling about an outstanding debt.” 
“Okay. But why are you calling me at work? Actually, I don’t care. Never call me on this number again. I’m at work and have no time to talk but if you’d like, call me at noon on my cell phone.” Yes, I know. I’m the sweetest. 

Erin agreed and at noon, she called again. 

The second conversation went something like this: “I’m calling about an outstanding Wells Fargo bank account you had from 2010. You owe $926 but we’re willing to settle today for $555 in an effort to avoid escalating this to litigation where you will incur legal fees and further interest.” 
I was confused. No bells were ringing. 
“I’m sorry but I don’t even remember having a Wells Fargo account. Can you give me more information?” 
Erin proceeded to explain that Wells Fargo bought out Wachovia and Chase bank, then hit me with, “You’re scheduled to be served with a subpoena on Friday.” It was Wednesday. 
“How can I be served with a subpoena? Shouldn't I be served with a summons and complaint first? I work at a law firm so if you need to take me to Court then do your thing. But right now, in this moment, I’m telling you that until I look into this, I’m not giving you any money.” 
“I can probably get approval to hold off on legal proceedings until 8am tomorrow if you’d like.” Erin offered. 
“Okay great.” 

Though I may sound like a ball buster, I was actually very nervous. Could it be true? Could I have an outstanding debt that I’m unaware of? The girl called me at work! I quickly looked up my credit report and found no mention of Wells Fargo. Still, the threat of going to court was scary. If the debt turned out to be real, there’s no way the Court would rule in my favor. I’d be a debtor and debtors are punished, their wages garnished, judgments entered against them, sheriffs looking to serve paperwork on ‘em, and not to mention the instant inflation of attorneys’ fees tacked onto the debt once papers are officially filed. I’d be screwed. So paying the piper and avoid the stress seemed like the best option. But something didn't feel right about Erin and my intuition was going haywire. 

When Erin called the next day, I had no plan. 

“We want to resolve this matter with you but we need you to make a payment TODAY.” She emphasized. 
“Here’s the thing, you’re not on my credit report, I haven’t found any information about this alleged account, you aren't giving me the account number, so I’m done. I've decided I’m not going to pay you. Do what you have to do and don’t call me back.” 
“So you’re refusing to pay?” 
“I’m not refusing to pay, I’m telling you I can’t pay for something you can’t produce legitimacy of.”
“Didn't you get my email with the account information I sent yesterday?” Uhm….no. “I’ll resend it and call you back in a couple of hours.” YES!!! An email with something to reference! How did I miss it?

I anxiously waited for her email while fumbling with the possibility of a sheriff stopping at my office to serve me with paperwork in front of everyone. Or in the alternative, forking over $555 bucks that I didn't really have. But alas, Erin’s email came through with an attached letter that appeared pretty legit. It was written on letterhead that indicated the company was headquartered in New York, contained my personal information, and made reference to a case number. It was everything I needed to legitimize her claims. Only instead, I discovered that I was the potential victim of a sophisticated scam artist. Debunked! I couldn’t wait to let Erin know the curtain was up. That bitch almost had me.  

So I replied to her email: 


Erin, 

I looked into this and I am confident that you are part of a debt scam. This debt is not on my credit report, you are not listed as a collector on my credit report, there are hundreds of people online indicating that you are scammers, and you're not listed in New York's business entity database. 

If you are certain that you are not a scammer, I encourage you to send me the account number associated with the alleged debt, as well as any offer to resolve the alleged debt via USPS to the physical address you have on file. 

Otherwise, do not contact me again. Either way, I will be reporting you to the FTC. 


BAM! I felt liberated but still, they almost had me. They literally ALMOST had me. What if I didn't know a subpoena had nothing to do with initiating a legal action? What if I didn't know to look up their business on New York’s entity database? I could've easily been suckered into giving my card info to some loser over the phone who would've done god knows what with it. Normally I’m not so foolish but SHE CALLED ME AT WORK. How the heck did they know my work number? 

But now I know better. And I want you to know better too. So if you ever get caught up in a similar phone call, here’s how to debunk their claims: 
  • Check your credit report. All debts and corresponding collectors are listed. If it’s not there, it’s probably not legitimate. 
  • Ask what state the collection company is conducting business in. Once you know that, you can run a search on that state’s business entity directory. Any legitimate business will be registered as “Active.” If no results show up, that business doesn't exist (or it’s operating illegally). 
  • If you’re super paranoid or the scammer is super smart and using a legit business as a front, google the phone number their calling from. My scammers called from “unknown” but the letterhead had a number on it which revealed a plethora of online reports indicating the number on the letterhead was associated with group of scammy scammers. 
  • Google the company name for any info you can get. Do they have a website? Are they listed on the Better Business Bureau? 
  • Don’t let their threats scare you into paying them. Any offers made telephonically should also be put in writing and sent to you via regular mail. Offers that are emailed don’t hold the same authenticity as mailed correspondence. If they won’t mail something to you, red flag. If they don’t have a website, red flag. If they cant give you an account number, red flag. 

Erin has followed my instructions and hasn't contacted me since my email to her. And though I’m relieved to know I’m not going to be taken to court this week, I wish I would've held out a bit longer, played along, and taken more steps to get her exposed. But hey!!! At least I won’t pee in my pants the next time someone calls me regarding a “personal and confidential matter.” Losers!

The seemingly legit letter. Redacted and comments added.