Intricate scam using Forest City number

Feb. 20, 2013 @ 06:47 AM

A complex scam claiming people owe money to avoid legal ramifications surrounding payday loans is using phone numbers based in Forest City.

The scam is attempting to bilk large amounts of money to unsuspecting individuals with the guise of avoiding jail time.

According to Forest City Police Capt. Chris Lovelace, an unnamed woman in Tennessee received a call from an individual claiming to be from the law firm of Sherman and Sterling. The number is from a Forest City extension.

The claim is that the woman received a payday loan and is in danger of facing criminal charges. To avoid the charges, the law firm asked for over $8,000.

"They told her it would cost $8,000 to get out of it or she would spend 30 days 'downtown,'" Lovelace said. "They actually used the term 'downtown.'"

Lovelace called the number given and spoke to a man identifying himself as "Steve Raben" who claimed he was with the law firm. The man said there were three criminal charges pending and, if the money was paid to the law firm, the charges would be dropped.

The man said that if the money was not paid the person would have to go to Boston to dispute the charges.

During the call, Lovelace was even given a reference number and a number with a 919 area code for "U.S. Cash Advance," the organization the money was owed.

The man claimed that the law firm was based in Grifton, but, upon a Google search, there was no law firm of that name in the town. In fact, the law firm name given was found to be based in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Lovelace then called "U.S. Cash Advance." The man who answered the phone said that the claim could be settled for $612 but the action had to go through the law firm because of the criminal action pending.

The individual also claimed that "U.S. Cash Advance" was located in Shawkia, N.C. however, after another Google search, Lovelace said that no such town existed in North Carolina.

"There is really no telling how much money they get off of people," Lovelace said. "They are pretty sophisticated with what they do."

As for the phone numbers, Forest City Police Chief Jay Jackson said there are ways to disguise a number to give the appearance that it comes from another location.

"You can have a number assigned and choose a region where the number comes from," Jackson said. "It doesn't take long to create a false identification to create havoc."

The problem now is there is very little the Forest City Police Department can do. Lovelace said it is more important to make people aware of what scammers are doing to avoid being caught in the trap and losing money.

"Most of the time they aren't even in the country so, there's nothing we can do," Lovelace said.