DeKalb Co. - A threatening phone call about an outstanding debt pushed a Fox 5 viewer to pay up even though he says he didn't owe the money.
Darin Johnson had a wife, a young son and a baby on the way. He says he's never had more than a minor traffic ticket on his record. So when he got a scary debt collection call, he panicked.
He says, he kept getting phone calls warning him that if he didn't pay up on an outstanding debt, a debt collector would take him to court.
"What they said is that they had a judgment against me for a $300 loan that was taken out," he recalled.
The DeKalb County man says he had taken out a loan for about the same amount sometime back, but payment arrangements had already been made. He was confused, but more than that he was scared.
"They had all of my information. They had, and that's the scary part of this, they had my home address, phone number, social security number, everything."
So, as he told the Better Business Bureau, he started paying the debt collector from Illinois. He was under the impression that his $300 loan was now $700, if he paid up, but if he didn't they'd take him to court for $2,000.
He was put on a payment plan - the first installment $100 then $196 until paid up.
The director of the state's Consumer Protection Unit tells the Fox 5 I-Team that Darin Johnson had the right to a written notice telling him how much he owed, the name of the creditor and how to appeal if he thinks it's not his debt. But, he didn't do that.
He didn't realize anything was wrong until he tried to make a call to the debt collector before his last payment. The phone was disconnected. So, finally, he made the right call.
He said, "I called the original creditor I thought this may have been about. I said I want to pay you guys off, what's my balance? The balance didn't match up. I was, like, haven't you guys been receiving money from this law firm? And they said, 'No, we haven't'."
He quickly filed fraud reports with his credit union and got all of his money returned.
If he'd checked with the Better Business Bureau, Darin Johnson would have seen this alert about the debt collector and it's "F" rating.
But, it was only after he paid nearly $500, Darin became concerned. He refused to send the last check, but the debt collector kept calling.
"Yeah, I got them for about a week after that. They called my in-laws. They called my mother after that."
The Consumer Protection Unit says a debt collector can call friends, family and your job to find out how to reach you. But they can't tell them that you owe money.
The Fox 5 I-Team tried to reach out to the Illinois debt collector, but we couldn't find a working number.
Go to my Facebook page - Dana Fowle Fox 5 - where there is a link to the laws surrounding debt collection. Know your rights.