Debt collectors threatening Durham woman with arrest

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Imagine getting harassing phone calls threatening jail time. For Cheryl Pearley, it's become a reality.

Debt collectors continue to call her leaving voicemails that she needs to pay up or a warrant will be issued for her arrest.

LISTEN: Debt collector leaves threatening voicemail

Cheryl says she's received several of these voicemails, all from different numbers and all threatening to take action.

"A warrant is being issued out in your name and social security. You have 24 hours to call me otherwise a deposition warrant will be issued out. Uniformed officials will then be sent to pick you up on the charges and allegations stemming from this," one voicemail stated.

Cheryl insists she doesn't owe any money. She admits she did take out a loan from an online company a few years ago, but she paid it off in 2015. She even has a letter from the debt collector stating the debt is paid off and, "No further money will be due in this matter."

But, that hasn't stopped the collection calls.

"They said I owe them that money and I don't," Cheryl said.

The Federal Trade Commission says they are seeing an increase in fake debt collection complaints.

"No one can arrest you for owing a debt, and consumers need to understand that police are not going to come get you," explained Cindy Liebes with the FTC.

She says don't give into the pressure when you get ones of these threatening calls.

"These fake debt collectors who often you don't owe the debt or they don't have any authority to collect that money," Liebes said. "They just want to get your money."

You do have rights when it comes to debt collectors. They can't harass you or make false statements like they're a government representative. They also can't say you've committed a crime and will be arrested if you don't pay up.

The FTC has more tips for how to handle a debt collector here.

When I called one of the numbers left in a voicemail for Cheryl, the representative who picked up said the case was so serious it's now out of their hands, and Cheryl could be facing even more serious charges like a felony, which is not true. When I confronted the debt collector on how it's illegal to threaten arrest, he just continued to insist it's out of his hands and they are just calling on behalf of Durham County Legal Services. We couldn't find a company by that name.

As for Cheryl, she just wants the calls to stop.

"I feel like they are getting to be harassing now," Cheryl told me. "I feel like they're getting bully, trying to get bully and scare me."

The best advice is to not answer these calls, and if you do just hang up and don't be pressured into giving any information. If you think you are responsible for the debt, have them send you the proof in writing. Also, once you get that proof verify the information as scammers often appear to be representing a legitimate company but actually have no part in it.

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