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Frank Gray


Bills nonstop in debt scam

Cons persistent, so just hang up

Bogus bill collectors are back at it, and they’re being just mean and threatening enough to scare honest people into thinking they might really owe someone money.

Take the tale of Fort Wayne resident Curtis Overly.

A few years ago an acquaintance got hold of his Social Security number and, unbeknownst to Overly, took out some small loans. Eventually Overly became aware of the loans, paid them off to avoid ruining his credit and distanced himself from the person who took out the loans.

Last week, though, Overly got a call out of the blue from some outfit claiming to be bill collectors, perhaps even lawyers. The caller claimed Overly owed $2,684.95 on an old debt, but that if he would settle up right then – that day, right that minute – he could get off the hook for $605.95.

Furthermore, the collector said if he didn’t settle up right away they’d have him arrested, that he’d be charged with a felony, and he could go to federal prison for five years.

Most of us know who we owe money to – and who we don’t owe money to – but in Overly’s case, he was alarmed, thinking maybe he had overlooked a loan that the acquaintance had taken out years ago, and now it was coming back to haunt him.

Meanwhile, the caller kept demanding that he make a payment immediately, that day. The caller suggested he go to a local discount store and buy something called a Visa rush card, a prepaid card. He would then provide the account number and the bill collector could get some money immediately.

At one point, Overly actually gave his credit card number to the caller.

But then red flags started popping up, and Overly quickly called his credit card company and canceled that transaction.

That’s when he started checking things out. The supposed address of the company doing the collecting was a parking garage, he said. Actually, it’s an office tower and the supposed suite is occupied by patent attorneys – but that doesn’t matter because these supposed bill collectors don’t operate through the mail, so they can name any address they want.

Overly did speak to his lawyer, who advised him it was a scam and recommended he have the scammers call him if they called again.

Meanwhile, when a friend picked up the phone and asked the callers how long they had been running the scam, they hung up, Overly said.

I went online and checked out the toll-free number the collectors called from. Complaints about calls from that number apparently started popping up just last month. Overly has no idea how they got his name and number.

Overly has also contacted the Indiana attorney general’s office about the incident.

It’s just helpful to know that these calls are coming about nonexistent debts. Just hang up.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.