Anyone who is deeply in debt knows the terrible stress and fear that often results from being in that situation.  So it is no surprise that many debtors are easily victimized by phony collection agencies. 

A recent article by Sheryl Harris in the Cleveland Plain Dealer highlights a scam by a Georgia collection agency that took millions of dollars from consumers in all 50 states.  Many victims were payday loan debtors who are often most vulnerable to this type of scam. 

The FBI reported that callers routinely pretended to be FBI agents, U.S. marshalls, sheriffs or Justice Department employees.  Callers frightened people into paying them by telling them that warrants were out for their arrest—or even that officers were on the way to arrest them.  The Georgia company employing these tactics now has criminal charges pending against it. 

This is another reminder to be wary of any debt collector who is threatening or who makes unreasonable demands.  While many of these victims are low income individuals, it is important to remember that middle class and even very affluent individuals can unexpectedly find themselves in debt and the target of debt collectors.  Protecting your assets to the greatest extent allowed by applicable law is more important these days than it has ever been before.