POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Pay up or you're going to prison? A Poplar Bluff woman says an old debt came back to haunt her with a new threat of jail time.
Is it harassment, or a legit way to collect? What do you do if it happens to you?
Penny Smith of Poplar Bluff shared her story. She says she was paralyzed with fear when she started getting calls from collectors that threatened time behind bars if she didn't pay the balance of a Quick Cash loan she took out back in 2006.
"Every time I hear a knock at the door I think it's going to be a police officer or authority coming to get me," said Smith. "I'm scared, I'm really scared."
She explained all she'd gone through with a trail of paper and cut up cards in front of her.
Smith says she had nearly forgotten about the loan until the calls started.
"It was a hard time for me," said Smith. "I didn't pay the loan back, I admit that. At the time, I can't remember if I even tried."
Smith says a person named Sandra Taylor called her cell phone, claiming to be a federal investigator. Smith says she told her to pay more than $600 within 48 hours to settle the loan, or someone would be at the door to take her to serve time.
"She said I was going to prison," said Smith. "I thought what she was saying was true."
So Smith got a prepaid card from Wal-Mart to pay off the debt. From there, as the person who called themselves an investigator promised, an individual rang from an unknown 800 number. Smith says she handed over the account information so that they could get the payment, and she thought the ordeal was over. However, instead her phone kept ringing.
"They just kept calling me," said Smith.
That's when she says she started trying to figure it all out. Smith says she went to Quick Cash who told her the debt was turned over to Frontier Finance years ago. Penny Smith says Frontier told her there was no record of her debt. Somewhere in the mix she says she was even directed to a local bank.
"I'm so confused," said Smith. "And, I have no idea who got my money."
Smith then went to Wal-mart who says the prepaid card was cashed in by a so called GSA account but she had no luck tracking them down either.
Heartland News also attempted to contact the agency and all the others Smith was directed to.
A Quick Cash representative responded with a written response.
"I have tried everything and I don't know what to do," said Smith.
Heartland News also tried to call Sandra Taylor. There were only messages from a recording saying the number would no go through, that it had been disconnected, and was not properly dialed.
"This is clearly sounds like she was scammed," said attorney Scott Dale.
Dale says Penny Smith and others like her do have rights thanks to the Federal Debt Collections Act.
"This seems to be happening a lot more often," said Dale. "Companies can end up hacked after the loans are overturned to a different agency. People see an opportunity to cash in. The act sets up rules so that people cannot be harassed. You can tell them you know the harassment is illegal and contact an attorney."
Dale says you should request written proof of the debt and never turn over any account information.
"People should not have to be afraid. Chances are you are not going to prison. You do have rights," said Dale.
"If you have an old debt you're worried about contact an attorney and ask what you should do," said Dale.
"I feel like I've been had," said Smith. "I'm still afraid. The tone of voice was authoritative and it scared me."
To learn more about your rights: http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/fair-debt-collection-practices-act