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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Phone Scammers Threaten Jail Time, Victims say -- Eric Alvarez

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. Pay your debt or go to jail.  Victims say thats how scammers pretending to be debt collectors are threatening them.

     A sudden ring from a 615 area code, then a threatening voice from a woman claiming to be from national investigator services in Nashville.

"They had my name, they had my social security number, and they had a previous address of mine, said Rhonda Stewart, who lives in Washington DC.

The voice over the phone told her to pay the $1,465 balance of a 2008 payday loan, Stewart said.

Stewart said she paid the debt back in 2008 but that only made the woman on the other end of the line more threatening.

Threatening me with lawsuits, threatening me with being arrested, threatening me with being charged with defrauding a financial institution, Stewart said.

The callers eventually sent Stewart a validation letter from the address...PO Box 7227 in Nashville.

Stewart was savvy enough not to give the voice her bank information, but she's still concerned the callers have her name, which at the time was Rhonda Small.  They also had her address, and information about a previous loan.

They can steal your identity and ruin you for having this information, Stewart said.

Fox 17 went searching for answers, but right out of the gate, we ran into a roadblock because there is no PO Box 7227.

The phone number on the letter led to a cell phone.

Kate abernathy
Department of commerce and insurance
17:12:32 - 17:12:49

No matter what the situation is, whenever a company offers just a PO Box and not a firm address, a street address, that's a red flag, said Kate Abernathy, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which licenses and registers all accredited collection agencies.

Abernathy ran the company through the state's system but found no record of the company.

Stewart isn't the only person they called, according to the Better Business Bureau.

They said i could make the payments to their office on the same date each month to remain out of jail," wrote one anonymous victim on the BBBs website.  I don't have another dime to give them."

Another warns families, once you give them your bank information, they don't stop leeching.

The AML group used the bank card information that I provided on 8/7/13 and authorized for a one-time charge of $408.00 a second time on 9/3/13 without my authorization," the complaint read.

The BBB flagged National Investigator Services and its alias the AML Group with an F-rating, but for the victims the damage is done.

It's unclear how many people actually fall victim to scams because many times they're too ashamed to admit they were had, but what is clear is how to fight back.

The best way to counteract scam artists is to be incredibly prepared as a consumer, Abernathy said.

That's exactly what Stewart did, by using the same high-pressure tactics she says could save you...

I still remained calm and just asked those questions and I even told them come on, come arrest me, you don't have anything to arrest me for, Stewart said.  I haven't heard from them since.

Stewart hasn't stopped fighting.

They should be going to prison, whoever these people are, Stewart said.

She says she's working with the attorney general's office in DC to keep better track of scams like these.

People like this who are defrauding you, they can wipe you out completely, if you're not careful, Stewart said.


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