Data ProtectionAs much as we knew it was a possibility, we were still a little surprised here at International Investigators to hear that scammers were pretending to be private investigators in a payday loan debt scheme.

The incident cited at credit.com says that a caller saying he was a private investigator pressured the victim into going to the local courthouse to settle her debt.

There are so many things wrong about this:

  1. Private investigators are NOT debt collectors. Our business is to uncover facts, evidence and the truth, not to contact people and collect on debts. No one from International Investigators will ever call to push you to settle a debt. It won’t happen.
  2. Unless there is a court case and hearing, no one can just “go to the courthouse” to settle a debt. There is a process that the courts, police and sheriff’s departments go through to inform someone when they must appear in court.
  3. No one except those legal authorities can order anyone to appear at county courthouses.

These scammers are demanding and intimidating, causing people to hand over their credit card numbers for repayment. They threaten that the police would be at their door any moment to cart them off to jail. That is just not true, but victims are scared into compliance.

The really scary part of this scam is that people are called when they don’t even have a payday loan to pay off. And not only are the callers pretending to be private investigators, they also pretend to be law enforcement representatives or other government authorities.

What can you do if you are targeted for a scam?

The first thing to do is hang up – immediately. If they call back, tell them to stop calling you and hang up again.

Some people demand to be sent proof of the debt. Often this will stop the calls because a) there is no debt, and b) scammers aren’t going to bother with it, they will just move onto the next victim.

If they won’t stop, you can inform the police.

The biggest thing is to not be intimidated. No debt collector has the power to have you arrested. They are not allowed by law to contact your employer, friends or family. And, without a court order, they cannot take money from your paycheck, either.

They have the power to annoy you.

Do you need to hire a private investigator?

If a scammer is relentless and moves into contacting you by email, post or visits to your home, that takes the scam to an entirely new level. Then instead of believing a PI is on the phone trying to collect a debt, you might be well served by hiring a private investigator to find out who these people are and what they are doing.

Some scammers target victims as they actually leave payday loan locations. These criminals aren’t just making phone calls, they know your face and, in some instances, they follow you so they know where you live.

It is known that scammers attempt to install spyware on computer and other devices to find ways to pressure a victim. They even track your movements and may confront you in public spaces.

Of course, all of that is illegal in the United States. The problem is that the authorities are overwhelmed with complaints and do not have the resources to investigate every complaint. That changes when you have some evidence to prove a crime has been committed. To get the evidence, you may need PI services.

A computer forensic examination and other digital forensics like cell phone hack detection and spyware detectors for tablets can illuminate any spyware and spyware removers used to eliminate the threat on the devices. That does not mean they will stop harassing you.

Computer forensic services are not the only way a private investigator can help, especially if you think you are being followed or are approached by a person. If you find that the scammer has information about you that is not public knowledge, you may consider TSCM services.

TSCM stands for Technical Surveillance Countermeasures. You may know it as a “bug sweep.” Some people think of it as a phone tap detector, but actually the process using highly sophisticated equipment is used to uncover spy surveillance, such as listening devices or to pick up video surveillance signs.

TSCM can be conducted anywhere: In a home, office, car, truck or even in a boat. Anywhere you would be having conversation. Even GPS trackers can be detected and removed.

Scammers are everywhere and every day they are looking at ways to make the “easy money” from unsuspecting victims. Don’t become a victim. Get help if you need it.

-T. Wilcox, CEO, International Investigators

-B. McGinley, Director of Operations, International Investigators