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Nov 7, 2010 8:04 PM by Matt Stafford

Close call

Tim and Carol Barta have received some calls they thought sounded fishy. They saved one of the messages and played it for News First 5.

"...calling you from the American Department of Law and Investigation," the voice on the Barta's answering machine says.

That agency may not sound familiar to you; that's because it doesn't exist.

Tim had recently taken out a payday loan at an ACE Cash Express branch in Colorado Springs. The message left on his phone this week mentioned where they got the loan and obviously knew his phone number. The message was also threatening.

"Saying if you don't pay, we're going to take you to court and throw you in jail," Carol Barta explains.

"Don't disregard this message and you return the call now," the message warns.

Tim was called by the fake agency, not only at home, but at work too. The caller had plenty of information, but was wrong that Tim was behind on payments.

"I told him I made my payments, call them (the ACE branch where he got the loan)," says Tim.

Tim also called the ACE Cash Express on South Nevada Avenue that he got the loan from. They told him his balance was fine.

"She (the ACE employee) says she doesn't understand how they (the caller) could have gotten this information," Tim explains.

Looking online, ACE Cash Express's privacy policy says they may give non-public information to third parties. Calls to ACE weren't immediately returned.

For Carol, she wanted to know more from ACE, but was more curious about the department that called -- it was one she had never heard of.

"I got online and looked it up," Carol says. "Apparently this department doesn't exist."

She saw that several others have had the same problem.

"I read a few of them, and most of them had in common that they had payday loans," says Carol.

"It's relatively common that we'll receive complaints for that," explains Lt. Pat Rigdon with the Colorado Springs Police Department. Lt. Rigdon says phone scams are nothing new; they're usually trying to get information to steal your identity.

"Anytime somebody calls you, I would never give information over the phone," Lt. Rigdon warns.

C.S.P.D. says unfortunately these criminals, when calling from another country, are hard to track. They recommend if you get any call that sounds fishy, to end the conversation and do research on the caller to make sure they're legit before giving out any information.

Tim and Carol were just lucky they didn't have to learn a tough lesson. They want others to be ready in case they get the same call.

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