Schemers are now using legitimate businesses for fraudulent purposes.
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -
Crooks have found several ways to take innocent people for all they've got. More recently, they've turned to using legitimate businesses for fraudulent purposes. A Shreveport woman found this out after she thought she was paying a debt to a legitimate company. But, the alleged "bill collector" was a fake, pretending to represent an actual business.
"Cheryl" did not want to reveal her real name because she says she's too embarrassed to admit that she'd been duped by fake bill collectors.
"He was representing a company that I had made a loan with and he proceeded to tell me that I was in default which I knew for a month," Cheryl says. "I said, 'Well what do I need to do?' and he said, 'This is what you need to do,' so I did that."
What she did was the beginning of a scheme that would cost her thousands.
"'You need to do it on a Green Dot card,' and I said, 'Ok, that's fine,' because I knew I owed the company the money. I was very comfortable with it. He knew a lot of things about me so I thought this was legitimate."
A Green Dot card is a legitimate and reputable pre-paid debit card that the schemers used fraudulently. Cheryl had paid up to $1,000. The supposed bill collector said he would call her back, confirming the loan was settled. But two hours later, there was a different story.
"He explained to me that my paperwork had already hit the courts in such and such state. I said, 'Okay, well what do I need to do?' He said, 'You have to pay those court fees.'"
Those alleged court fees came up to $500. He told Cheryl in order to avoid going to court, she would have to pay that extra amount. Once again, he told her to do it on a Green Dot card, and she did.
Over the next few days, she received more calls on outstanding loans from the same alleged bill collector. She says those calls eventually turned into threats.
"If I don't do this I'm going to go to jail, they're going to contact my employer, they're going to this, he's going to have this done to me and everything."
Within weeks, she had paid over $3,000. After finding a copy of the bill from the loan company, an emotional Cheryl wanted to know why her debt had not been settled.
"I said, "You know I'm making all these payments to your company, I'm making all these payments, where are my payments going?' I told them what I had done and that's when she told me I was scammed."
After finding out she was scammed, Cheryl reached out to the Shreveport Police Department. She told them every time the schemers called, it was from a different number, at one point even calling from the SPD number.
"We have had cases in the past where individuals have used our number on some sort of app and of course those things come and go," says SPD Chief Administrative Assistant Bill Goodin.
Shreveport police says this isn't the first time they've run into these types of schemes, but it can be difficult for investigators to find the thieves.
"Many times they move around so much it's difficult," says Goodin, "By the time you actually get a lead on who is doing what you get there and it's an empty building. "
The Better Business Bureau gets thousands of these cases each year. Vice President Bob Davis says they tend to refer people to their local police department or the Federal Trade Commission though he's skeptical if either avenues do you any justice.
"If you use the debit card from your bank, then you can track it. The bank is going to keep track of where the money went. But using the Green Dot card, there is no way to track it. It's just like handing someone cash," says Davis.
Cheryl says she is now in a financial bind, owing more money than before. She says next time, she'll be sure to know who she is giving her money to.