We all take on some debt now and again, and some of us may have some serious defaults on our credit reports, but what happens when you get a call from a supposed creditor that says they’re going to serve you papers? This can be a scary situation for many people, and even if you only have a limited amount of debt, potentially being sued can bring on a lot of stress and uncertainty.
The good news is, in most cases, it’s nothing you need to worry about. Let’s take a look at one of the more popular scams in the debt collection space, the Fake Process Server.
What Is a Process Server Scam?
It’s a scam that’s growing in popularity every day, and it starts like any other, with a phone call from a blocked or untraceable number. A process server can be defined as a person whose job it is to serve legal documents, such as subpoenas or warrants. If you’re getting a phone call from someone claiming they are calling you on behalf of a process server, odds are you are dealing with a scammer.
These phone calls often start with a recording that may sound like other robocalls, and then it will transfer a live person to the line.
They then tell you that some paperwork came across their desk with your social security number and other identifying information on it and they wanted to discuss the matter with you.
They will tell you that attached to the paperwork is a “certified notice of intent” for a pending legal claim against you, and that they are sending a process server to go to your home or place of employment to serve you papers.
They will oftentimes say that the reason they are calling you is to “give you a chance to resolve the matter” or “give you a courtesy call” that you were added to their schedule to come to serve you.
Sometimes they will advise you that you have the opportunity to resolve the matter immediately with payment, while other times they tell you they just wanted to give you a heads up that they were coming out on a particular day and time.
The most important thing to remember is to not call them back on any number they give you, or that shows up on your caller ID. This is a scam, but most people don’t see it coming, so they are at risk of falling for it.
How the Process Server Scams Works
The most common tactic the scammer uses is to go through all of the phone numbers that they have for you, often phished online. This will lead them to your personal contacts, employment, and even friends and family. The hope is that they can either scare you or someone related to you, into paying a non-existent debt.
They will call repeatedly and demand that you owe a debt and that the lender or creditor is preparing to file a lawsuit against you, and that you have just a few hours to settle the matter to avoid court. They may tell you that for just $400 they can get rid of the case and notate it as resolved.
Sometimes, they’ll even tell you that they’re going to have you arrested for bad debt. Just know that they cannot do this, and even the mention of such is enough to confirm that it’s a scam.
5 Clues to Identify a Scam
There are many ways to determine if you are dealing with a legit organization or a scammer. Here are several clues you can pick up on that should tell you if the person is who they claim to be or not.
Clue #1: Their Method Of Communication
Scammers will call from fake numbers, blocked numbers, or untraceable numbers. They will call you on the phone or even send you text messages that may try to bolster their claims.
This is a definite scammer because nobody who is suing you will give you advance notice that you’re going to be served.
That defeats the entire purpose of a low-cost process server. Any legitimate legal materials that you need to be sent that don’t need a witness to deliver them will be sent via certified mail or registered mail, which require a signature and receipts for the sender and the recipient.
Clue #2: You Can’t Find The Collector’s Information
When you speak to someone, get their company name, phone number, address, anything you can. Any legitimate company will be able to give you valid phone numbers, legitimate headquarter or corporate addresses, and more. Additionally, all this information will be easily verified with simple internet searches.
Scammers will often get more upset that you are asking for such information, and may even become rude or abusive at this point. Put whatever information you get into Google, and see what comes up. Scammers will have addresses and numbers that have no official results, aside from other people mentioning that they got scam calls from that number.
Clue #3: You Have to Pay to Prevent Legal Action
One of the trademarks of this scam is that they say that while you are set to be served, you can resolve the matter by making a payment. The fact is if you are going to be served and a lawsuit has been filed, paying a few hundred bucks isn’t going to stop that, and someone that wants to sue you is going to do it without giving you a chance to evade it.
Clue #4: Odd Payment Methods Are Required
This scam, as well as many others, usually features a common element to them; they all want payment in a relatively untraceable way. In many cases, these scams will become immediately obvious even if you agree to pay, because the scammers will require payment in odd prepaid cards, like Visa Prepaid cards, Google Play Store cards, or Amazon gift cards. If they want you to pay with gift cards or prepaid cards of any type, it’s a definite scam.
Clue #5: They Rush You Into Taking Action
Another incredibly common element to these scams, and others like them, is the rush factor. They state that while the paperwork is ready to file, you can avoid being served by paying $X in the next 4 hours, or before end-of-business that day.
This should be a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a scam. No matter what, you aren’t going to be able to stop a court filing with just a few hours of leeway, you’re either being sued, or you aren’t.
One of the easiest ways to separate someone from their money is to make them afraid and offer a “cheaper resolution” that is under a time constraint for validity. This scam has been going on in various forms for years, and as long as people keep falling for it, it will keep going. If someone calls you and threatens you with a lawsuit or even arrest, don’t flinch.
Make sure you get all the information you can from them and do all possible research to verify their legitimacy before submitting any request for payment. Remember that in most states, you’ll be able to look up any civil action against you online, so there’s usually an easy way to legitimately tell if anyone is suing you. By doing enough due diligence, you’ll be able to stay safe from scams and keep more of your money.