New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an alert Wednesday based on ongoing complaints from consumers reporting being contacted by scammers posing as an attorney from the AG's office.

The consumers receive a notice from the AG's office that uses confusing legal terms to give the impression that state regulators are investigating the consumers for failing to pay a past due debt. The  false claims include "Collateral Check Fraud," "Theft by Deception" and "Violation of Banking Regulations." The letters threaten criminal action and arrest if the debts are not paid.

Scammers are reportedly contacting consumers by letter, often received as a PDF attachment to an email, which appears to be signed by an actual New York attorney. The letter sometimes pressures the consumer into sending payments via “FTC regulated vouchers” or PayPal.  The letter also directs consumers to call a New York number with a 347 or 646 area code or another number that appears to be based in another state.

Yet these numbers may actually connect consumers to someone outside of the U.S.  Consumers who have called those numbers have been verbally threatened with arrest or the loss of their job.  In at least one case, the consumer was told to go to another location and call for additional instructions on how to repay the fake debt. 

The letter also may contain a phony email address at the New York State Department of Financial Services, such as dfs.ny.gov@usa.com, or a fake email for another government agency and use a return address of the New York Civil courts. 

??"Now more than ever, New Yorkers must be on guard when it comes to suspicious notices regarding debt collection or pending litigation: We have recently seen an uptick in the number of consumers targeted by scammers impersonating attorneys from my office," Schneiderman said. "Keep in mind that government agencies will never threaten you harm over failure to pay a debt and will never solicit personal information over the phone. If you believe you have been contacted by a fraudster posing as a government official, please report it immediately so that we can bring these scammers to justice."

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