Yesterday afternoon, I got a threatening message on my voicemail after I hit “Ignore” on a private number. A woman calling herself Brooke Jones (Brook Jones? Brooke Jonez? Whatever) told me she would serve me court papers the following day (that’s today!) between 3 and 5 p.m. at my home and place of business (which are conveniently the same place!)
She then rattled of a few vague threats about “legal action” and “lawsuits” and “noncompliance.”
Before I get into more detail, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.
This is a process server scam. Fake debt collectors leave these threatening messages, hoping that terrified consumers will hand over their financial information to avoid getting sued.
Please, please, pretty please with unicorns and fairies on top, do not fall for this.
Fake debt collectors leave these threatening messages, hoping that terrified consumers will hand over their financial information to avoid getting sued.
Back to my story.
Ms. Brooke Jones, in a thick Minnesotan accent, left a number to call with “questions or concerns.” I didn’t hear the voicemail until about 7:30 p.m. Texas time, but I decided to give the number a shot anyway. If you’re curious, it’s 844.251.9439. After four rings, Jeffrey Stanton (Jeffery Stanten? Jeffry Stanton? Whatever) told me he was away from his desk via a recording.
Not to be deterred, I tried again this morning. Success! Mr. Jeffrey Stanton answered his phone.
Here’s what I said to the scam artist:
“My name is Laura College, and a woman calling herself Brooke Jones left me a threatening voicemail yesterday afternoon. She gave me this number to call, and I wanted to get a few things straight.
First, don’t ever call my number again. Second, try this scam on someone who isn’t stupid. What process server calls a defendant to warn her that she’s coming? I’m not an idiot. And third, if anyone shows up at my house, I’ll have them arrested for trespassing on the spot.”
When I asked for Ms. Brooke Jones’s phone number at City Serve (CityServe? CitiServe? CitiServ? Whatever), he told me that providing such information would be a breach of contract. When I asked what documents Ms. Jones wanted to serve, he said he didn’t know.
I continued to ask questions, and he came up with bullshit answers for all of them, occasionally throwing in a three-dollar word that he probably thought I couldn’t define.
If I didn’t already know this was a scam, his final action would have convinced me.
He hung up on me.
I’m sharing this story because it’s happened to me a few times. My name and number must have landed on some list of potential suckers, and every time it’s the same threats:
- We’re going to serve you with documents.
- We’re going to sue you for money you owe.
- We’re going to show up at your house.
- We’ll serve you at your job with your supervisor present. (I’m my own supervisor, so I don’t know how that would work.)
- We’ll take your first born. (Okay, I made that one up.)
Unfortunately, though, I’m afraid that people fall for the process server scam and for fake debt collectors in general.
So here’s the deal.
If someone leaves threatening messages on your voicemail, or if they threaten you over the phone or in writing, they’re not abiding by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In part, the FDCPA “prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.”
A fake process server is definitely deceptive. And threats are definitely abusive.
To make sure you’re not a victim, do not give out any information. I gave my name, but only because they already had it.
Don’t provide or confirm your social security number. Don’t give a credit or debit card number. Don’t agree you owe a debt.
If you feel unsafe, call the police. That’s what I did the first time this happened, about two years ago. The last thing the guy said to me on the phone was, “I’ll be at your house in forty-five minutes.” That scared me, so I panicked.
Ask for the name of the original creditor if you think the debt might be legitimate. You can get in touch with them and handle the repayment negotiation from there.
However, I don’t owe any debts. I have an excellent credit score, I pay off my credit cards in full every month, and there are no negative marks on my credit report.
So you can fall victim to a process server scam or fake debt collectors even if you never owed any money to begin with.
I’m sharing this story because I don’t want these assholes to win. I don’t want you to part with your hard-earned money so they can line their pockets.
If this scam didn’t work, they would stop running it. So let’s put them out of business.