Scammers fool victims by claiming they owe money

Posted at 7:29 PM, Sep 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-20 19:29:39-04

The next time you get a phone call from a charity or a company claiming you owe them money, think twice and do a little research.

Janet Leimenstoll is serious and she's determined to avoid becoming a victim of scam artists.

“I had purchased years ago some products through the Handicapped Workers and I hadn`t bought anything from them in years and years,” says Leimenstoll.

Yet out of the blue, Janet got a call from someone who said they were from that charity saying she owed them money.

“I argued with him for a little while, and he said, ‘It`s going to collections today if you don`t pay today,’” says Leimenstoll.

Janet knew she didn`t owe any money, but she did feel pressured.

“They threaten you with sending you to court and they say it will cost you thousands in court fees so you start hearing thousands of dollars,” says Leimenstoll.

“People were told 'You owe this money. We are going to send it to a collection agency and your credit will be ruined,'” says Kim Gordon, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

So Janet paid them $150.00, three times the cost of the original purchase because of late fees and fines.

“I was truly furious when I realized they were scamming me and I didn`t quite know what to do,” says Leimenstoll.

She decided to do some investigating about the date she was told she bought the item. She ordered her phone records for the day.

“They sent me the whole month from that year and I had no incoming or outgoing calls on that day,” says Leimenstoll.

Once she confirmed, she never purchased any items. She called the company to get a refund.

“The lady was very mad. I said I have proof that I didn`t buy this, because I don`t have a call coming in or out that day, I have my phone records,” says Leimenstoll.

Janet got a full refund. Not everyone was so lucky. Postal inspectors say 150 to 200 victims lost tens of thousands of dollars.

“If someone calls you asking you to donate to a cause, have them send you some information through the mail so you can check it out,” says Gordon.

Inspectors also have this advice:

“Never be pressured to make this decision on the phone right now. Any reputable company would be happy to send you information and take your time,” says Gordon.

Postal inspectors were tipped off to the case after almost 400 complaints were filed against the company.