The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has put out a national alert about phony debt collectors that are calling consumers nationwide, warning of imminent arrest if they don't pay on a defaulted payday loan immediately.

Claiming to be lawyers, the scammers say they are with the "Financial Accountability Association" or the "Federal Legislation of Unsecured Loans" and are equipped with a disconcerting amount of personal information about their potential victims.

"Because the scammers have so much information about potential victims, BBB is concerned that this may be the result of a data breach," said Randall Hoth, president and CEO of the Wisconsin BBB. "Thousands of people may have had their personal information compromised, and given the scammers' tactics, it appears that those who have previously used payday loan services could be particularly at risk."

According to reports received by BBB and posted online, the scammers accuse the victim of defaulting on a payday loan and claim they are being sued. The phony debt collector threatens that, if the victim doesn't pay as much as $1,000 immediately via wire or by providing bank account or credit card numbers, he or she will be arrested and extradited to California within the hour to stand trial.

The scammers often have the victim's Social Security number, old bank account numbers or driver's license numbers as well as home addresses, employer information and even the names of personal friends and professional references.

Michael of Chicago tells of receiving such a call. He says a "G. Smith" told him that there were three felony counts against him because he took out a payday loan and never repaid it. According to Michael, "they were vague about information" and didn't give him dates or amounts.

Michael says that while he did fill out applications for payday loans, he did not request any money. Michel says the caller was "reading off information like my bank that I use and my company that I work for and two references that I put down and telling me they are going to notify these people of these felonies I'm being charged with."

BBB offers the following advice to consumers if they receive a suspicious telephone call about an outstanding debt:

• Ask the debt collector to provide official documentation that substantiates the debt.

• Do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have confirmed the legitimacy of the call.

• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online if the caller is abusive, uses threats or otherwise violates federal telemarketing laws.

• File a complaint with BBB online if you believe a debt collector is trying to scam you.

According to complaints online, phone numbers that the scammers are calling from include: 949-468-5107, 415-200-0274, 415-200-0274, 213-784-5745, 408-715-1614 and many others.