Better Business Bureau: No, debt collectors can't put you in jail

By Tracy Bracy
Nov. 9, 2013 at 5:09 a.m.

We get calls at the Better Business Bureau all the time from scared consumers who receive threatening calls from bill collectors who say they could be thrown in jail - or other such nonsense that bill collectors can't really do and aren't supposed to say.

A federal court just cracked down on one such operation at the request of the Federal Trade Commission, freezing its assets so consumers can be compensated.

The bill collectors, based in Atlanta and Cleveland, used threats and other tactics to collect phantom payday loans that either were not owed or were not owed to the defendants.

This isn't the first scam like this. There have been many other recent FTC cases against fraudulent online payday loan-related businesses.

Better Business Bureau Advisory: Protect your child's identity

A 2012 study by the Identity Theft Assistance Center found that 2.5 percent of U.S. households with children under age 18 experienced child identity fraud at some point during their child's lifetime.

The Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin encourages parents to start monitoring their child's credit report to prevent devastating damage to their future.

Identity thieves often steal Social Security numbers, attach a different name and birth date to it, and proceed to open credit cards, secure auto loans, student loans and even home mortgages.

Children are easy targets because they typically do not start using their information until early adulthood when applying for college, loans or their first credit cards. And by that time, the damage is already done.

Child identity fraud may be underreported by family members who may be linked to the fraud, because they often don't realize their child has become a victim until around 18 years old. That's why it's so important to start monitoring your child's credit report as early as possible.

As a parent, you can better protect your child's identity by:•  Safeguarding your child's personal information. Keep your child's personal identifiable information, such as his or her Social Security card, date of birth and birth certificate, in a secure spot.

•  Monitoring your child's credit report. As soon as you get your child's Social Security card, you should start monitoring his or her report at least once a year. Request a free credit report from

•  Keeping antivirus software updated. Some savvy thieves create viruses designed to search computers for documents containing your child's personal information. Make sure your computer is continually updated with the latest antivirus software.

•  Safely disposing of personal documents. Shred all papers that include your child's personal information before you throw them out and delete computer files that you no longer need.

Tracy Bracy is the regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Corpus Christi/Victoria. Contact her by email at



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