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Bad News: You're in Debt. Worse News: You're in Phony Debt.


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Real Clear Investigations

John F. Wasik, RealClearInvestigations
January 25, 2022

The email from “Norton Protection” said I owed $999.99, which was “charged successfully and it will appear on your bank statement in 24 to 48 hours.” Although I have an account with a leading cybersecurity company, I’ve never paid that much for its products. To “cancel” the charge, I was instructed to call a number, conveniently highlighted in yellow.

All it took to bird-dog my fake debt email was a simple search-engine query of the invoice’s telephone number. It was based in Hawaii. Unfortunately, perhaps, for the real employees of Norton’s help desk, they are likely not stationed in the Aloha State.





Fortunately, fake debt collectors are relatively easy to suss out. If they are calling on the phone, they are usually threatening and blatantly refuse to provide detailed information. Online, they have sketchy URLs, identifying information and links when they email you. The more aggressive they are, the more suspicious. The Federal Trade Commission has a set of rules they are supposed to follow under the Fair Debt Collection Act, but the more obnoxious operators consistently use fear to get results. If they are harassing you, they are breaking the law.

Unfortunately, the scammers are also relentless. The same week I received the “Norton Protection” email, I also received an email from “Costco Wholesale” stating I had received a “special reward.” All I had to do was click on a link, which I didn’t do, because I haven’t shopped at Costco in a while and noticed a sketchy URL based in the United Kingdom. Definitely not cricket.

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