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By Contributed photo
BY BLAIR LOONEY Contributing columnist
Dear Action Line: Lately, I have been receiving unusual calls from a caller claiming to be an FBI officer. The person stated he has been monitoring my online activity, and demands that I repay a payday loan to avoid legal consequences.
I actually do have an outstanding payday loan that I am working to pay, but the balance the 'FBI officer' had said was incorrect. After the call I realized the balance was incorrect, but my first reaction was to pay off the balance.
I offered to pay by debit card, but the 'FBI officer' declined to accept the card and did not take my card information. The caller stated that I must pay the loan on a pre-paid Visa card, and made it apparent he had some of my personal information.
I started to grow very suspicious so I ended the call. I completed online applications for a loan and credit card before the calls started. Now I am concerned that some of my personal information may have been compromised or the possibility of facing legal consequences.
Dear reader: You made the right choice by refusing to follow the telemarketer's instructions and bringing the call to an end. The situation that you described is not uncommon; we have received many questions from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams in the past.
Your concern about your personal information is well-intended. How the fraudster obtained this personal information can vary, but it's possible it was obtained from the online application you filled out.
Here are tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
* Never give your Social Security number -- or personal information of any kind --over the telephone or online unless you initiate the contact and you know whom you are dealing with.
* Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information. The email may include upsetting or exciting but false statements to get you to react immediately.
* Avoid filling out forms in email messages that request personal information.
* Ensure that your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been applied.
* Check your bank, credit and debit card statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
* Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file.
* Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger.
-- Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.