Pre Approved Visa: Merrick Bank

The other day I received a pre-approved credit card offer from Merrick Bank that promised to double my initial credit limit of $600 to $1200 provided that I hold up my end of the bargain and make at least the minimum payment due for 7 months straight.

It sounded like a great deal and I was ready to jump all over it, even at an APR of 24.99 percent. That is until I read the small print that said I would be charged a $72 annual fee for as long as I owned the card. I would be billed $6 per month for the entire year.

This means that even if I carry a zero balance, I would still be forced to make a $6 payment each month. $6 may not seem like a lot but if you should ever be late making that $6 payment, you'd be charged an outrageous $35 late fee. So, your $6 payment turns into a $41 payment in the blink of an eye. No thank you!

My guess is that once they see that I didn't respond to the initial offer, they'll up the ante with a sweeter counter offer minus the monthly fee and most likely at a lower interest rate. If not, oh well... I have plenty of new credit cards as of late and I'll be just fine.

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You Know It's a SCAM When...

I get hundreds of questions every month from people saying they received a call from some random debt collector stating that they needed to hear from "either you or your attorney" by a certain deadline or else they'd commence with legal proceedings against them. If you ever get that call then you can safely assume that it is just a scam.

How do I know it's a scam? It's simple. The last person a debt collector wants snooping around in their shady business is an attorney! It's because 9 times out of 10 the debt collector is using illegal collection tactics to shake people down of their money.

The ONLY reason why they'd tell you to have your attorney or legal representative call them back is because when the word "attorney" is mentioned in a live conversation or voicemail it makes the matter sound serious. If you actually did have an attorney call them back they'd freaking crap their pants!!!

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The Payday Loan Honor System

Let's face it. Payday loans are based almost completely on the honor system. Their entire business model relies upon the assumption that the borrower will be honorable enough and or disciplined enough to pay back the loan month after month after month.

It sounds crazy when you actually think about it but in reality, the majority of people have every intention of paying back the loan. Borrowers generally repay loans for the first three to six months until things inevitably get out of hand and they start looking for a way out.

Something always comes up...This leads to late payments, a missed payment or two and finally a flat out default and refusal to pay. I know because I've been there way too many times. Most people don't take out a loan with the sole intention of defaulting on it. The majority of us are just not wired that way...but "shit happens".

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When The Devil Calls Your Job ll

So I'm sitting at work today and I get a call from a woman with a stern authoritative voice asking to speak to an unknown coworker. Upon further questioning she reveals that she's calling from Credit Management. Immediately, my spider senses start tingling and I knew right away that she had to be a bill collector calling to harass one of my coworkers.

Having been in this situation before, all I wanted to do was "cover his 6". In laymen's terms, I wanted to protect my coworkers backside from the enemy. After all, if a bill collector called my job looking for me I would want someone to cover my 6 too! I didn't even know the wanted guy but I refused to divulge any information about him.

The bill collector asked if I knew him and I told her that I didn't. She then asked if we had a company directory and I stalled by telling her that I was looking through it but I really wasn't. Caught off guard, I put the caller on hold and asked my supervisor what to do and she advised me to tell the caller that we don't accept bill collector calls...I love my job!!!

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Why Don't You Just Pay Them?

I remember when bill collectors used to call my parents home all the time and my father used to ask my mother "Why doesn't he just pay them?" Well, it sounded easy enough because I certainly had the means, but what my parents couldn't wrap their heads around was why I didn't?

Well, it's not about having the ability to pay as much as it's about the statute of limitations. What I mean by this is that if a debt is close to falling off your credit report organically, as well as being past the point of being legitimately sued for the debt, then it makes no logical sense for me to pay it back.

Sure, there's the moral aspect of the fact that I did borrow the money and therefore I should pay it but the reality is that over time, things change and sometimes it's simply not in my best interest to pay back the debt. Sometimes it's just better to let the bad debt fall off your credit report naturally once seven years has passed and no one's the wiser!

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Ghost Protocol

So here's the deal. If you think that you're the only person with mounting bills to pay, then let me be the first to tell you that you are not alone. We all run into tight financial situations that we think none of our friends are going through but more times than not, we are wrong.

Anyone can put on a front of having money to burn but that doesn't make it so. I've never been one to play that game because if I did, I would have never created this blog. If you've followed my blog at all, you'd know that I'm all about full disclosure.

I do keep my identity private to all but a few friends but that's only due to the subject matter of my blog. My anonymity keeps bill collectors from launching an all out assault on me as retaliation for the assault that I've launched against them. All is fair in love and war, I guess!

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When The Devil Calls Your Job!

Debt Collectors calling your home is one thing, but when the calls start coming to your job and embarrassing you in front of coworkers and disrupting normal business flow, the harassment has reached critical mass. Now, beyond the embarrassment, depending on where you work, you could be at serious risk of losing your job.

Fortunately for me, I've always worked at places that either had a switchboard where I personally knew the operator fielding the calls and was nice enough to send the callers elsewhere...Thanks, Sue! Or, I worked at places where my phone extension was so far off the grid that I was basically untouchable.

I realize that most people are not this fortunate. Luckily for me, most bill collectors have given up chasing me. It just takes up too much of their time and resources when it's clear that they can't get me to answer the phone or return a message. I am immune to fear and intimidation and they know it, so they move on to easier prey.

As for everyone else, you must keep your wits about you. The person with the money has all the power. You have the money that they want so make debt collectors play by your rules and not theirs. If you can only pay X amount of money per month then stick to that amount. If they tell you that's not acceptable, then tell them you'll pay someone else if they don't play ball.

They'll play hard ball at first but if you stand your ground, most will eventually relent and accept something rather than nothing. It's simple math. For those who don't accept your payment offer, that's fine. Move on to the next and pay someone else.

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Everyone Needs Credit and Here's Why:

Over the years I've tried to stay away from credit cards as much as possible but over time I found that this was probably not the best strategy. You see, having good credit can save you so much money when it comes to purchasing a car, renting a new apartment, buying furniture, etc.

After wasting so much money on security deposits, down payments and high interest rates, I soon realized that it was the equivalent of financial suicide. No one should have to pay such outrageous and unnecessary fees for the things that they need so much like living spaces and transportation.

So in closing, credit is not all together a bad thing and I think that everyone should have at least one credit card in good standing with a strong credit history to back it up for when the time comes, and it will, to make some of those larger purchases in your time of need.

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New Credit vs. Old Credit

Not very long ago I was finding it very difficult to get approved for anything without paying through the roof for high interest rate auto loans and apartment rentals. Credit cards were next to impossible to secure unless I plopped down a deposit for a secured credit card. It wasn't ideal, but it was a start.

Knowing my credit history, I hadn't applied for unsecured credit in a very long time but for whatever reason I decided to try my luck again and applied for a Capital One "Platinum MasterCard". To my surprise I was approved! After three months of on time payments I applied for the Capital One "Quicksilver One" card and was again approved!

Needless to say I was blown away by my good fortune. Things were finally starting to turn around for me so what did I do? Yep. I applied for a third card just two days after being approved for my second card in three months and was approved for a Kohl's Department Store card!

So you see, no matter how many times bill collectors ring your phone and scare your wife when you're not home, as long as you consistently apply on-time payments towards your newest and most recent credit accounts, good things are bound to happen!

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Kohl's Charge: APPROVED!

YES... I was just approved for a Kohl's Department Store charge card! Now, you may have never heard of Kohl's before but for those who are familiar, Kohl's is one of the best discount stores on the planet. When you think of Kohl's, think Target, because they are basically one in the same except that Kohl's is cheaper!

The good news is that if Kohl's is not local to you, you can always visit www.kohls.com for the best deals around! This department store has discounts on top of discounts on top of discounts! If you decide to stick with them, you can literally save hundreds of dollars a year on your purchases!

So just in case you have not been following my blog lately, my new Kohl's card is the third unsecured credit card that I have received in the last three months and boy does it feel good! I'm ecstatic because there was a time not too long ago where I couldn't buy a line of credit and now it seems that everyone is willing to give me a chance!

So with that, I want to leave you with this: Don't ever give up! No matter how bad your credit may be today, there is always a brighter future tomorrow. I am living proof of this. With my experience, I can easily guide you through to a brighter day!

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Capital One Gave Me A Third Chance!

In a previous post entitled: Capital One Gave Me A Second Chance!, I spoke of how after defaulting on a previous Capital One credit card account, that 6 years later I reapplied for a new card and was approved. That was just three months ago.

Fast forward to today. On a whim I decided to apply for the Capital One Quicksilver One credit card and was approved for the second time in just three months! To say I was shocked would be a gross understatement.

We're talking about a person who just a few years ago could not get approved for anything other than a secured credit card. Now, with my newfound credit, I will continue to use it responsibly as Capital One is known for generously increasing your credit limit by $2000 after just 5 months of on time payments!

If you've had trouble reestablishing credit in the past, I highly recommend applying for the Capitol One Platinum Card first. After making three to five on time payments above the minimum amount due, then you can confidently apply for the Quicksilver One card. By using your new credit wisely, you will soon be rewarded.

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I Could Never Be a Bill Collector!

I could never take a job as a bill collector. One of the many reasons is because I think they are scum of the earth and I think much more highly of myself than that. It's a dirty job and somebody has to do it but that somebody is not me.

Calling some random stranger up and asking them for money that they haven't bothered to pay back in years just seems counter-productive to me. I mean, in most cases whenever I've had a years long unpaid bill its generally because I have absolutely no plans to pay it.

80% of all debts incurred in America are never collected and that is a formula for a lot of cold nights and wondering where your next meal is going to come from. No thank you! I'd rather sell bean pies on the street rather than accept that job...not that there's anything wrong with selling bean pies on the street!

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Credit Rebuilding: No one said it would be easy!

Make no mistake about it...Restoring ones credit is easier said than done. When I first set out to repair my credit, I had a 2 year plan and had I been able to stick with it, I would have probably been successful; but unfortunately, that was not the case.

My plan was 3 tiered. First, I was going to let all negatives that were nearing the statute of limitations fall off when the time came. This required no work on my part. I'd just wait them out.

Second, I would send "pay for delete" letters to all of my collection and charged off accounts. Anyone who was willing to negotiate a settlement to my liking, I would negotiate. Anyone who wasn't was dead to me and moved to the bottom of the list.

Lastly, I'd continue to make timely payments on the accounts that were current and in good standing while simultaneously searching for new credit offers that through research I found would be easier to get approved for; only applying if I felt that I had a better than average chance for approval.

The plan was great in theory but the reality is that I never followed through with it. I allowed myself to become distracted with sports on television, stress at work and hanging out and having fun! The good news is that I was able to secure a few new credit accounts in the process but overall, I could have been more successful.

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Money Changes Everything

A couple of years ago I was going through a really hard time and dealing with all kinds of financial struggles. My car note was behind, insurance, cell phone, credit cards and numerous other bills were all at least a couple months past due and I was stressed to no end.

After several months of struggling, I came into a large and unexpected sum of money in the tune of just over 10K. Even though the money had not yet touched my hands, just knowing that it was sitting there and on the way to me changed my entire mood for the better.

Nothing else seemed to matter. Dealing with my girlfriend leaving me, no problem. Stress at work in a job I couldn't stand, no problem. Fake friends talking about me behind my back while simultaneously stabbing me in it, no problem.

Having money made all my struggles seem terribly insignificant the moment I knew that a large sum of money was headed my way. They say that money doesn't buy happiness but the people who say that never had any money, so what do they know?

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Answering Calls From Unknown Numbers

Whenever I think about whether I should answer a call from an unknown number that I know is most likely a bill collector, I just let it ring straight to voicemail! The reason I don’t answer is because I know that if I do, I will just end up being upset and there is really no good reason to put myself through that kind of stress.

I know that plenty people feel that this is bad advice and that you only make matters worse by not answering and dealing with the issue head on. Well, those people are idiots! Now, let me explain. I have no problem with people wanting to pay their bills, because you should. Just do it on your own terms.

If you know you don’t have enough money to pay the debt off in full or at least enough money to negotiate a reasonable pay for delete offer, it makes no sense to answer the phone and get verbally abused by some "jackass" on the other end of the line who probably owes more people than you do!

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Genesis

Over the years, people have asked me how I came up with the idea for “Bill Collectors Hate Me”. The idea sprouted from numerous conversations with friends and family members about how I’d find myself in a bind and then somehow manipulate my finances in such a way that I could seemingly generate money out of nowhere.  Here’s a few examples:

I found a loophole that allowed me to access money from my 401K every few months in order to pay my $1200 rent or $600 car payment whenever I was running low on cash, which I never had to pay back. I learned how to get a full tank of gas for $1 so that I could commute back and forth to work. I’ve survived on $50 for two full weeks until my next payday more times than I can count on one hand.

When a bill collector sent me a summons in the mail, I didn’t panic. I did a little research, made a couple phone calls and prepared my answer to the summons. A few days later I was at the courthouse filing my paperwork, paid a filing fee and less than 30 days later, my case was dismissed. Some have said that I work more angles than a politician…I simply call it maximizing my resources.

I’ve have several walk on water experiences. So many, in fact, that some people have accused me of having a “God Complex”. Maybe those people are right. Or maybe I just think they are and I’m simply living out the fantasy of trying to be who they think I am. But I digress.

Because I was becoming more and more known for maneuvering in and out of financial situations with ease, friends suggested I write a book or create a website to share my story with others who could use my assistance. Some suggested that I become an accountant. I decided a blog was my best option.

Blogging would give me a platform in which I could share my years of experience in credit and finance as well as the dark world of collections. I realized that through a blog I’d be able to teach people how to combat renegade debt collectors who think they are above the law. “Bill Collectors Hate Me” was born. 

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Capitol One Gave Me A Second Chance!

In a previous post entitled: Beware of Second Chance Offers from Capitol One, I warned people about accepting a credit card offer from Capitol One if you’ve ever defaulted on another credit card with them. The reason is because Capitol One is quick to extend you credit only to add your previous past due balance to your new account.

Having previously defaulted on a Capitol One account myself, back in 2009, I was very leery about accepting any new credit card offers from them for fear that they would add the old debt to my new account. After careful consideration, I decided to give them another try and to my surprise, I was approved for a new unsecured MasterCard.

It’s still too early to know if they will add my previous past due amount of approximately $1500 - $2000 to my new account but since my new application is 6 years beyond my original default date and long past my states statute of limitations, I think I may be safe. So if you’re thinking about accepting a new offer from Capitol One after a previous default, at least be sure that you've exceeded your states SOL.

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One Reader Speaks


I received an email the other day in response to a January 2015 blog post entitled: Do you find "Bill Collectors Hate Me" Useful? It was the only response that I received on the post but its message was priceless!

The response was along the lines of: "Although you may not be getting much feedback on your blog, I’d be willing to bet that you have a lot more readers than you do commenters".

What the reader was trying to say was something that I already knew… And that is that most people find it very difficult to speak about bad credit, especially when it’s their own.

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When Logic Meets Ridiculous

When you’ve dealt with bill collectors for as long as I have, you eventually run across just about every collection scenario in the business. In one such scenario I received a call from a collection agent who was for the most part very nice and surprisingly a perfect gentleman throughout the entire conversation. The conversation went pretty much like this:

The collection agent tells me that my visa account was in collections and in order to settle the account, it would cost me just over $1000.00. I informed him that the credit card limit was only $300.00 and that I would be willing to pay the $300.00 to settle the account, as I was trying to clean up my credit.

He then informs me that the extra $700 was due to collection fees and interest. I remained calm as to not escalate the situation and kindly informed him again that I would gladly pay the $300 past due amount but there was no way that I was going to pay back an extra $700 in interest and fees…not in this life or any other for that matter. I never heard from him again.

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Repeated calls from bill collectors

Repeated bill collector calls are intended to embarrass you into paying back a debt. The embarrassment comes from calling your employer, friends and family members. By applying enough pressure, debt collectors are betting that you’ll pay a debt that you may or may not even owe, rather than deal with potential embarrassment…especially at your job.

I guess I’ve just been lucky in that I’ve always had jobs where I was virtually untouchable at work. A debt collector would either reach a switchboard operator who would never transfer calls or I had my own extension where I could easily differentiate calls from client’s vs debt collectors with a simple glance at the caller ID.

By now, my family knows my feeling on debt collection calls and have long stopped bothering to pass on messages from bill collectors. To my surprise, they didn’t even flinch when a debt collector threatened to serve me a summons at their home the next day between the hours of 3 and 5 pm. Did they ever show up? Of course not. They never do.

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Debt and Depression

If you’ve ever suffered from depression in your life, then you might be familiar with the term “depression shopping”. Depression shopping is when you shop for random items, usually for yourself, in order to elevate your mood if only for a few days.

Depression shopping gives the individual a high, the equivalent of what could be gained by drinking alcohol or indulging in some other kind of drug. People who’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder share some of these same characteristics.

Riding an emotional roller coaster, some days they feel great joy and happiness while other days finding themselves suffering from great sadness. Depression shopping often leads to the accumulation of debt that eventually goes unpaid. Before you know it, debt collectors are ringing your phone non-stop.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I didn’t write this article to make excuses for people who don’t pay their debts. I merely wanted to raise the point that it’s a possibility. Clinical depression is very real and should always be taken seriously, as one never knows what a person is going through inside their head.

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Capitol One Credit Card Offers

About 7 months ago I spoke with a friend of mine who received a Capitol One credit card offer in the mail and since he knew that credit and finance was my expertise, he asked me if he should accept the pre-approved offer with a $300 credit limit.

Having had a Capitol One card in the past, I was very suspicious and cautious in recommending that he take them up on their offer but in the end, I relented and told him that although the interest rate was a bit high, it seemed like a fairly good deal as far as poor credit card offers are concerned.

Well, to make a long story short, he ended up accepting the offer and for seven months straight he paid the entire balance in full and never paid a cent of interest. Today, my friend informed me that Capitol One had raised his credit limit from $300 to $2300! Now that’s what I call a great return on investment! 

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When Bill Collectors Call Me...

I don’t get angry or upset like most people do. In fact, I actually welcome the calls because at this point in my life I just find them to be a great source of entertainment. When bill collectors call me I listen to each and every voice-mail in its entirety... the more outrageous the call, the better!

I don't know how many times they've threatened to send a courier to my home or place of employment with a summons if I didn't call back right away. So far, it’s been going on 3 years and no one has ever shown up at my home or workplace.

So, the next time someone calls and says you're going to be served the next day, just tell them “OK, I’ll see you tomorrow!” I promise that will be the last you’ll hear of it until they sell your debt to someone else and the threats start all over again.

As for myself, when I get those calls I let them go straight to voice-mail so that I can download them to my computer using Google voice, then upload the audio to my blog so that others can hear these outrageous calls and know there's nothing to be afraid of.

So you see, while they’re making a mockery of the crap-hole industry they work in, I’m sitting back in front of my computer with a glass of wine making a mockery out of them by exposing all their dirty little secrets to the public for all the world to see. If I were a bill collector, I’d hate me too!

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First Interstate Credit Card Offers

While watching TV on my day off, I hear the loud thump of junk mail hitting the floor as the mailman jams it through the mail slot. One piece of said junk mail had a firmness to it which typically indicates a credit card offer. I open up the letter and sure enough…it was an offer from First Interstate Bank.

That is, if you want to call it an offer. The letter said that I was pre-approved for a $400 credit limit. Not bad, I thought. Then I looked for the “gotcha” and it didn’t take long to find it. The interest rate was a whopping 36%!!! If that wasn’t bad enough, it came bundled with a $99 a year fee just for the privilege of being able to carry the card around and say you have one.

They call themselves lightening the load by allowing you the ability to break the $99 up into 12 equal payments of just $8.25 per month!!! Having had previous experience with another First Interstate Visa with an interest rate hovering around 24% and a similar fee structure, I was quite familiar with the term “being raked over the coals”.

If I had any balance at all, my monthly payment along with the $8.25 monthly maintenance fee left very little cash being applied to the cards principle. I paid on that card for nearly a year and the money I poured into it each month could barely be noticed. Just imagine that same scenario at 36% APR!!!

Even with a zero balance, the maintenance fee made it nearly impossible to pay the card off for more than 30 days at a time before the next fee was due. God forbid you’re ever late because then you’d be hit with a $35 fee for making a late payment on a payment that you should never have had to pay in the first place!

Who wants to bust their rear end to pay a credit card off so they can finally reach a zero balance only to continue having to make a payment each month? It makes no sense. If this isn’t a pure case of predatory lending then I’ve never seen one. I tossed that offer right In the trash.

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Defaulted Payday Loans

If you've ever defaulted on a payday loan, then chances are you've received more than a few phone calls threatening lawsuits and arrest warrants like the ones you’ll hear on my blogs audio player. Needless to say, they're just scare tactics.

I've received over a hundred such calls over the years and I've never had a single courier serve me a summons at my home or place of employment like they are so famous for threatening people with. Furthermore, if they were going to have me served they would never give me advanced notice.

These ridiculous threats are intended to do one thing and one thing only...scare the debtor into making a payment. I have nothing against a person trying to make a living. Believe it or not, debt collectors do serve a purpose. My only issue is the way in which they go about collecting the debt. 

Having said that, defaulting on a payday loan may be an issue of morality, but it’s certainly not illegal. I’m sure we all had intentions of paying the loan back when we borrowed the money but the reality is, sometimes *hit just happens! 

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Normally I do my own dirty work but for whatever reason, call it a gut feeling, today I decided to do a little extra research and I ran across an organization called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB. They work as a middleman between you and the debt collector and work to get your issue resolved.

In my complaint I made no admission to owing the alleged debt or any promises to pay. I simply stated that I had recorded transcripts of the company’s illegal collection tactics and that if they didn’t cease and desist all communications with me immediately, that I would seek legal action against them.

This is where Google-voice really comes in handy. With Google-voice, all voice-mails are recorded and can be downloaded to your computer as an mp3 file which can be used as proof of the illegal collection practices being used against you. In the case of my CFPB complaint, I was able to upload the mp3 files that I saved to my computer directly into their online complaint form!

Don’t just think of the CFPB as an intermediary. Each complaint submitted to the CFPB is shared with several local, state and federal agencies that oversee collection tactics by unscrupulous companies that illegally harass consumers about unpaid debts, even if the debt does not belong to you.

I took a more aggressive stance in my complaint by threatening legal action because I have a “no fear” attitude, but you may want to communicate in a less aggressive tone and hammer out some type of payment arrangement with them. I’m just providing the information. How you choose to use it is completely up to you.

The more complaints that we submit as consumers to organizations such as the CFPB and Federal Trade Commission, (FTC) the greater the chance we’ll have of getting some of these low life companies shutdown or at least fined enough to make them collect unpaid debts by the letter of the law.

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Phone Number Spoofing

So tonight I get a phone call and the caller ID reads: Sheriff’s Dept. Now, to the average person, panic would set in right away but for me, my immediate thought was that it was just someone trying to collect on a debt by disguising their phone number in order to make it appear as if the call was coming from the Sheriffs Dept. Seriously...That’s just how my mind works, so I let the call go straight to voice-mail.

The caller identified himself as Officer X, calling from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept. and he stated that a warrant would be issued for my arrest this evening at 9:30 PM and if I wanted to prevent the warrant from being served, I needed to call the plaintiff in this case back at the provided telephone number within the next hour or else I would be picked up and arrested!

The alleged charges were something along the lines of theft by deception, bank wire fraud and some mumbo-jumbo about fraudulent checks across state lines. At any rate, it was clearly a bunch of B.S. and that’s putting it nicely! I’ll give him credit…If I didn’t know better, I would have been scared “witless”, especially after I googled the number on my caller ID and found that it actually matched the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept., but I’m smarter than that.

Listen, I didn’t create this blog because I was stupid. If the goal is to scare me, pull the Sheriffs car up to my front door with a warrant in hand and maybe then I’ll consider taking you seriously. Maybe. But even then, I’d know that the visit was due to some kind of mistake. The thought of it being for an unpaid payday loan or other debt would NEVER have crossed my mind because I know that these are civil matters and not criminal. You might sue me for the debt but you’ll never jail me for it!

Phone Number Spoofing:

Phone number spoofing is the ability to call from one cell phone number and disguise it to appear as if the call is coming from another phone number…Including numbers that belong to legitimate entities such as local law enforcement agencies with the hope that it will scare you into complying with their demands for immediate payment. Don’t fall for it. It’s a scam!

These apps can be downloaded from any iPhone or Android store in about 2 minutes and can be stressing a person out within 15! Yes, technology has come that far! I was so amused at the creativity that went into the creation of this scam that I had to blog about it right away so that I could give my followers a heads up before they got scammed or stressed out unnecessarily.

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