Consumer advice: Your wits will serve you against a process server scam

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I recently received an email from a reader who let me know she received a call from someone claiming to be a process server. He informed her she would be served on a certain day between 3 and 5 p.m. She wanted to check with me to see if this was legitimate. A process server is someone who notifies an individual or company that an action has been taken against them in a court of law.

If you receive a call from a process server be careful. Posing as a process server could be the perfect cover for a scam artist to gain entry into your home, where they may perpetrate a crime. Most people are not sure of the legal process and don’t know what to do if served with papers. This is a perfect opportunity for scammers to take advantage of you.

If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a process server, watch for these signs: Process servers will never ask you for money, they are paid by the party hiring them to deliver the documents. If a process server claims they can get the case dismissed if you pay them, this is clearly false. Process servers are paid to deliver documents to the recipient, period. I called a local process server and asked them if they would call ahead of time to serve someone, they said they might so this wasn’t unusual.

If you have reason to believe this call may be a scam, here’s a couple of things you can do to protect yourself. Get the case number and call the courthouse to see if there is any pending litigation filed against you. If you aren’t comfortable with someone coming to your door, tell them to call the sheriff’s office to get a deputy to show up with them to deliver the papers. Chances are if this is truly a scam, there is no way the crook wants law enforcement showing up with them to aid in the scam.

I did call the sheriff’s office to ask if they would accommodate such a request. I was told that while it wasn’t likely a deputy would show up to serve papers, they agreed that a scammer would probably not bother to harass someone who wasn’t an easy mark. So while I could not tell the reader it was not legitimate, at least now she knows how to protect herself.

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I’ve been contacted by a couple of local readers who have received notices from debt settlement agencies. These notices look rather official, complete with an estimate of the debtor’s balance and even warns the receiver that this is their second notice and to respond immediately to get this issue resolved. The notice also informs the debtor that they are eligible for help and even gives a proposed settlement offer with a monthly program payment amount.

These readers are concerned because this isn’t debt they were aware they even owed and it turns out they don’t. There is never an actual mention of a certain debt the potential client owes. These notices are very clever marketing tactics to get the recipient to engage by calling the company for further information. The very fine print does acknowledge that the terms and settlement offer are for illustration purposes only. Actual debt and savings are dependent on a client’s unique financial circumstances. If you aren’t in need of debt reduction services, just throw the notice away, it doesn’t apply to you.

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I’ve been notified by several readers that they have received either phone calls or emails from QuickBooks (an Intuit Company). The caller tells them their credit card has expired and they need the customer’s updated credit card information for the account.

In most cases, the “customer” says they’ve never used QuickBooks. Don’t give your credit card information to these crooks. If you do use QuickBooks, verify the legitimacy of the call or email by going directly to the website at www.intuit.com or calling the corporate number at 1-800-4-INTUIT.

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I received three calls in one day from readers telling me they received a call informing them there is a legal enforcement action filed against their Social Security number. By now we all know this is a scam. I Googled the number, 929-274-0579, and it is indeed tied to fraudulent activity. If you get a call from this number, don’t answer it and then block the number, if you can.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m a full-time copywriter working with businesses on market messaging, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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