DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The Federal Trade Commission announced a nationwide crackdown on phantom and abusive debt collectors on Tuesday.
The agency says "Operation Corrupt Collector" targeted debt collectors trying to collect on non-existent debs by using illegal scare tactics.
"Not only do we have to worry about the pandemic and our health. Then someone tricks you with this in the middle of a pandemic," says Staci Haggerty.
The Ovilla woman should be one of the last people who should be fooled. From her home south of Dallas, she trains customer service agents, the legitimate people who make calls to collect money.
"I think I am a little savvy and a little sophisticated, and I'm not one that would easily be tricked but I was. It scared me. It really scared me."
Earlier this summer, Haggerty got a call from an alleged debt collector.
"They were filing warrants for me in Ellis County. They had warrants for my arrest and the police were coming to my house and they were calling my employer," explained Haggerty.
She sent the caller $600.
"As soon as I did I realized it, I called my bank and filed with the FTC," says Haggerty. "I got duped!"
But she is not alone.
The FTC says there are victims nationwide.
"For many years, we've been working with our law enforcement partners to crack down on illegal and abusive debt collectors," said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Anne LeJueren is an FTC attorney who works in the Dallas office.
She says 32 defendants are now under injunctive orders for charges which include "using robocalls to leave deceptive messages," "threatening legal action" and/or "using consumers' personal information" to convince consumers the threats are real.
"These collectors pretend to be government officials, process servers, investigators and attorneys to intimidate people into paying," says LeJueren.
So far, in 2020, Texas has received more than 10,000 debt collection complaints, more than half of them have been abusive or threatening according to the FTC.
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