SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Payday loans are usually the loans of last resort for people who need money fast. Now there is another reason to be wary of them.  Consumer experts say scammers are targeting borrowers and would-be borrowers with harassing phone calls.

Don Frascnella knows firsthand. Last year he started receiving calls claiming his payments were late and threatening legal action.

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The callers also contacted  Frascnella’s close friends.

“They had contacted a reference I had used and essentially threatened her,” he said.

Consumer advocate Joe Ridout said he’s not surprised. In fact, he said thousands of people who’ve applied for online payday loans are getting similar calls.

“We’re not certain exactly how the information got into the scammers hands,” he said. “It could be the internet payday lender sold the information.��

Ridout also added that the data could’ve been hacked into. The calls may also seem convincing, since the caller knows personal information said Ridout.

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“Someone in that predicament might not be sure that they didn’t pay that internet payday loan in the past and could fall for this,” he said.

To determine whether the phone call is from a legitimate debt collector, Attorney John Chavez said debt collectors have to provide proof of debt in writing within 30 days.

“If they can’t come up with that proof, they are not entitled to collect the debt,” he said.

As for Frascnella, he’s now screening every call carefully and hoping to help keep others from falling for the same scam.

“They want you to be afraid, because they want your money,” he said.

Experts suggest callers who receive similar calls should make note of the incoming number. The calls could also be reported to the internet crime complaint center.

To report scams, please visit, the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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