Now that you're tuned in to the fraudulent calls from crooks claiming you owe money to the IRS, there's a new scam to put on your radar. A group using the name, IPS, International Processing Solutions, is leaving voicemail recordings. I want to thank Dirk Lockhart for telling me about the calls he's been getting for the past six months on his home phone and now on his cellphone. Dirk was told he owed a debt, but IPS refused to give him specifics like "who" he owed and "for what." He says the con artists were simply trying to intimidate him into giving them money.
Dirk says the scary part is that IPS callers have just enough information about you to make you feel uncomfortable. For example, they recited to Dirk the last four digits of his Social Security number, his full name, address, and other personal details. He says the background noise indicated a busy office or even a huge call center. The good news is that Dirk knew better than to give in to their demands. Dirk said, "They can get belligerent. They can swear at you. They can do all sorts of things, but that gives you a clue right off the bat that they're not legit."
I did some digging. I learned there is a legitimate company called IPS, International Processing Solutions, out of Bay Harbor Islands, Fla. But it's not a debt collector. It provides merchant services. I talked to the director of operations, Joel Hoskins, who told me his company is getting several calls a day from people all over the country who believe the callers are with his company. He says, "We are victims. They're hurting our image and our reputation." Joel is hoping to spread the word, so others aren't bullied. Joel talked to a woman who gave the fraudsters her bank account information. She was told to pay up or she'd be taken to court. The phony IPS workers, described as slick and well-spoken, claim they have the ability to arbitrate the amount that's owed.
The legitimate IPS has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. My FTC sources couldn't comment, but told me that people need to know not to share information with strangers over the phone, no matter what the claims. If you do legitimately owe money, federal law requires the debt collector to mail you a notice within five days of exactly how much you owe and to whom. You then can respond back in writing and explain your side.
Dirk is averaging five to six calls a day from the crooks. He says Caller ID reads out, "Toll Free Number." He says to look for calls with an 855 or 844 prefix. Remember there's a lot of information about each one of us on the Internet. Don't let a crook use your info to scare you into losing money.
Contact Betty Sexton at email@example.com or 578-0000.