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So-called debt collector threatens Valley woman

So-called debt collector threatens Valley woman

By Loni Blandford. CREATED Jul 17, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Preying on fear. That's what one Valley woman says a man claiming to be a debt collector did in order to get her money. She handed over her debit card hoping the problem would go away but that's not what happened. So, what are your rights as a consumer?

"My heart is in my stomach. I was like oh my gosh I just got took for $300," said Michelle Zapata.

Michelle works long days to provide for her family. In the past, she's turned to payday loan businesses when she's needed money in a pinch. But Michelle says she prides herself on the fact she has always paid her bills on time. That's why a call she got recently threw her for a loop.

"Bad debt 2006, you need to make this payment you're defrauding this company," said Michelle.

The caller said Michelle needed to give them $675 and the debt would go away. Michelle remembered going to a payday loan place back then but also remembers writing out a check a few days later to clear the debt. She says when she explained she already paid it, the caller became more forceful.

"That there's a private investigator looking for me," said Michelle.

Michelle says they threatened to send the investigator to her work place immediately. When she started asking question, she didn't get much of an answer.

"What's the name of your company, your information, and she's like once you pay it I'm going to email you all the information," said Michelle.

Afraid, Michelle agreed to pay $300 and gave them her debit card number. When she didn't get any paperwork confirming her payment, she called them back. After insisting she get some sort of receipt, Michelle finally got a letter emailed to her. There's no company name, address or signature but says they're acting on behalf of Fast Bucks, a payday loan business. It also says that cleared her account.

"This could happen to anybody," said Michelle.

But here's the thing: Action News called Fast Bucks who says that they will first call a client when they're trying to collect a debt. Anyone claiming to collect money on Fast Bucks behalf is lying. That's why Michele Johnson with the Financial Guidance Center says consumers need to educate themselves about the law before paying anything.

"After that initial contact within five days, the creditor, the collection agency, must send you in writing information stating that they're a collection agency, who the original creditor was, the amount," explained Michele. 

That's something Michelle Zapata says she didn't get. When we called the toll-free number on the letter she got, they gave us two different companies names before eventually hanging up. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers against these aggressive tactics.

"The creditor cannot threaten, they can't coerce, they can't say they're going to do something that they can't legitimately do," said Michele.

That's something Michelle Zapata wishes she knew before handing over her private information.

"Do some research find out who these people are don't just say get out of my life," said Michelle Zapata.

Zapata is now in the process of filing a report with her bank and the Federal Trade Commission. She doesn't know if she'll get the money back. But she is now reading the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act so the next time someone calls about a debt, she knows her rights. If you'd like to read it, just click here.