The same scam artists who the Channel 4 I-Team first exposed in 2010 for using phone threats are being blamed for trying to con hundreds of thousands of people all over the country, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
An FTC assistant director said the scam, originating in India, has cost Americans more than $5 million.
The FTC said the scammers have made 2.7 million calls.
Middle Tennesseans like Angie Roberts received a call at work from a man calling himself "Ryan," who said he with a group called The Crime Unit.
"Ryan" told Roberts that she owed money on an old payday loan, and when Roberts said she couldn't pay it, the call turned threatening.
Roberts' office records all conversations.
"That's a problem, ma'am. In a couple of hours, there will be a couple of (garbled) teams of officers (garbled) coming to (garbled) in Nashville, TN, and also your current work place, and informing your employer about the allegations that they have. And from there they will take you to the courthouse," "Ryan" said.
"Ryan" also knew personal details about Martin, including where she lived and worked.
Mark Tucker also told the Channel 4 I-Team he had received the calls, and a sinister sounding message was left on his cell phone.
"If I don't hear from your attorney, either, the only thing I can do is wish you good luck as the situation unfolds on you," a voice said on the message.
According to the lawsuit filed by the FTC, the scam artists were calling from India and were contacting consumers to make a series of misrepresentations and threats.
"These fake debt collectors are applying a lot of pressure to get consumers to pay by doing things like claiming to be associated with law enforcement, threatening to have people arrested," said Tom Pahl, FTC assistant director of the division of financial practices.
The Channel 4 I-Team tracked down one of these scam artists, calling himself Jason Hunt, over the phone in 2010.
"This is not a scam," Hunt said.
Pahl said the Indian scam artists were using technology to make it seem the calls were coming from the United States.
Roberts got her revenge on her scam artist.
After supplying her recorded conversations and information to the Channel 4 I-Team, Roberts was ready the next time the scam artist called her.
Again, she recorded the conversation, and gave it to the Channel 4 I-Team.
"You realize I know this is a scam. And I have recorded these calls, and you are going to be exposed on the news," Martin said in the recorded call.
"Then (expletive), go to (expletive)," the scam artist said.
The FTC is now suing a California man who is accused of setting up a shell company to process the payments made by victims.
The FTC doesn't know how many Middle Tennesseans were scammed.
Pahl said the scammers bought peoples' personal information when they filled out forms to receive payday loans.
But Pahl said not all the people called got payday loans.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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