FDIC Warns of Phone Scam

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Phony debt collectors are putting homeowners at risk for identity and credit theft, warns the FDIC.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is sending a warning to scammers targeting homeowners by phone. The callers, who are looking for money on delinquent loan payments, and even have the right Social Security information, should be avoided at all costs, says the FDIC.

The calls usually follow a narrow script: The caller identifies himself or herself as a debt collector working with the FDIC. Often the caller will tell the homeowner that he or she is behind on their mortgage payment, usually from a loan made online. To avoid a lawsuit and potential arrest, the heavy-handed script continues, and homeowners are urged to make a payment by phone using a bank checking account number, or debit or credit card.

The FDIC cites the calls as sometimes being “aggressive and threatening.” And the agency warns homeowners that it “does not initiate unsolicited telephone calls to consumers and is not involved with the collection of debts on behalf of operating lenders and financial institutions.”

The agency cites the calls as potential cases of identity theft and advises homeowners who have received such calls to check their credit reports and contact one of the three major credit rating agencies to see whether anything seems fishy.

According to the FDIC, “If a caller demonstrates that he or she has the recipient's sensitive personal information, such as Social Security number, date of birth, and bank account numbers, the recipient may be the victim of identity theft and should review his or her credit reports for signs of possible fraud. The individual should also consider placing a "fraud alert" on his or her credit reports.”

You only need to contact one of the three major credit rating services. By law, the one you contact has to let the other agencies know you’ve requested a fraud alert. Here’s the contact information for each of the main credit reporting services:

  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834-6790
  • Equifax (Stock Quote: EFX): 1-800-525-6285; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241
  • Experian (Stock Quote: EXPN): 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013
  • Reach out directly to the FDIC’S Cyber-Fraud and Financial Crimes Unit at alert@fdic.gov.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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