Knoxville man called, threatened by ‘phantom debt collector’

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Does this sound familiar? The phone rings and a scary voice on the other end tells you that you have a debt that needs to be paid up. If you don’t take action now, he says, you’re family’s safety may be in jeopardy.

Con artists running the “phantom debt collector” scam have terrified thousands of people across the country. In recent weeks, many people have contacted the 6 On Your Side hotline saying someone claiming they’re with the IRS has called demanding payment. The IRS will not call you.

A Knoxville man received a call like this the other day. Initially, it frightened him, and rightly so. The call that Fredy Sosa received came out of the blue.

It came to his cell phone. At first Sosa believed the guy was trying to sell him something.

“I thought it was some kind of advertisement, so I told him i wasn’t interested. Then he switched and said he was some kind of officer. hH was saying that it was some kind of loan, something that I owed money to. I don’t have any loans out,” said Sosa.

Fredy Sosa
Fredy Sosa

He told the caller he owes no money.

“He said, ‘Well I know you have two kids.’  He said, ‘I have a family too, so just listen to what I have to say and do what I tell you to do,” said Sosa. “He said I needed to send him $280.”

The guy called back and left a messaged, which Sosa saved. The accented caller wasn’t very polite.

“This is a very serious matter, don’t dare to take it lightly,” said the voice on the message.

“He said that if I don’t pay him, my kids would be living on the dark side,” Sosa said. “It was frightening because I have a newborn.”

One thing to remember is that scammers are in the business of making money, not spending money on uncooperative victims. If you simply say, “No, I don’t believe you” and hang up, the con artist will eventually move on to their other targets.
The scammers don’t want to risk of exposure to local law enforcement.

“It’s a numbers game. If you are not cooperative or don’t give them a reason to call you back, they won’t call you back,” said Jerry Tipton with the Better Business Bureau.

“I haven’t returned his call. I’m not going to,” said Sosa.

If someone calls claiming they’re a debt collector and you’re concerned about the status of an unpaid debt, hang up and call the creditor back yourself at the phone number provided on your loan paperwork, not the number that the caller gives you.

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