Dealing with payday loan collectors

Many of us, if we're lucky, have been living paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes the paychecks don't come soon enough and we're forced to swim with the sharks of the payday loan industry. These loans are terrible for myriad reasons. For instance, the interest rates on these loans can be as high as 900%. No, that is not a typo. NINE HUNDRED PERCENT!!! This extreme interest can make it nearly impossible for struggling people to ever break free from the clutches of a payday lender. The main issue I wanted to touch on today is what can happen in the months and years after you've paid off a payday lender. We're getting a lot of calls lately from people who've received harassing phone calls. The callers claim that the individual owes a debt to a payday lender, though they rarely identify who the lender is. They then proceed to threaten that criminal charges are pending and the only way to avoid jail is to pay up immediately. Or they say they will send someone to the debtor's residence to seize money or goods. Definitely a menacing prospect.

We think most of these calls are flat-out scams. The payday lenders have either sold their customer information to shady third parties or their data has been hacked. The callers often have a lot of information about the individuals, including their addresses and social security numbers. They often use this information to convince people of their legitimacy. They also prey on the fact that people who've used payday lenders in the past know from experience that these debts are difficult to pay off in full and that even a $1 balance can skyrocket quickly.

Whatever you do, don't agree to pay these collectors over the telephone. Do not give them any personal information about yourself or any of your financial accounts. Demand that they tell you the name of the payday lender you allegedly borrowed this debt from and that they put their demand in writing and mail it to you. Also, take notes on the call. Write down the number they've called from and the name the caller gave you (99 times out of 100, this will not be his/her real name). Note whether or not they spoke the phrase, "This call is from a debt collector and is an attempt to collect a debt," and make sure to write down any specific threats the caller made.

As soon as you are off the phone, we recommend contacting a consumer attorney or the state Attorney General's office. If the call is a scam, either should be able to tell you that and advise you on next steps.