Owing debt is stressful enough without having to worry about debt collection scams. Sometimes creditors will “sell” debt to legitimate debt collection agencies who will pursue you for payment, but how can you know that it’s not an imposter trying to get money and personal information from you unfairly? Here are some tips to help you spot the scams.
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a debt collector, the first step to ensuring their legitimacy is confirming who you’re talking with, what agency they’re claiming to work for, and the name of the creditor they are collecting on behalf of. You’ll also want to ask for an address and a return phone number.
A legitimate debt collector is going to understand why you’re asking these questions and will want to assure you that they are who they say they are. They will also be aware that it’s required by law for them to tell you this information or provide it to you in writing within 5 days of the initial contact they make with you.
Verify all information you receive.
Googling the name of the agency, the phone number, and/or the address should give you a good idea of whether it’s a scam or not. You will also want to ensure that the agency is licensed in your state and that the phone number given matches the one you see listed online. If you call the number back and don’t reach the same person or agency, this is a red flag.
Scammers may have the ability to disguise their phone numbers so you can’t always trust caller ID. If a phone number someone is calling you from doesn’t match the one listed for the agency, call the agency number, let them know the name and phone number of the person who contacted you, and ask them to verify they are in fact employed by the agency.
You should also verify with the debt collector the name of the creditor they are collecting on behalf of and check this with your own records. If you’ve never worked with the creditor they name, this is another red flag. If you have, you should contact them and ask which debt collector they sold your debt to.
Finally, verify with your own personal records whether the debt appears to be real or not. It’s worth noting that you can be the victim of a scam with a genuine debt or be called by a true debt collector with an illegitimate or incorrect debt, so it’s important that you do your homework.
Be cautious about what you share.
If you are questioned about your personal information such as your address, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or social security numbers, this indicates it could be a scam. If a debt collector has bought your debt from a creditor, then they should already have your personal information on file.
Some debt collection scams are interested in “phishing”—meaning they are actually after personal information that they can use to commit fraud, identity theft, or sell to others.
Take your time.
It can be distressing knowing that your information has been passed onto a debt collector and you may feel like rushing to get it resolved. If you have debt, you definitely want to address it — but it’s better to take your time and do it wisely rather than quickly. Taking a few days or weeks to investigate a debt collector and verify that the debt is indeed legitimate is worth the wait.
If the debt collector pressures you to pay quickly or shows resistance to the methods listed above—this may indicate a scam. While a legitimate debt collector obviously wants to get paid, they should be understanding of your need to verify their credibility before proceeding.
A scammer is likely to give up after a while if you’re requesting verification, not returning their calls, or not giving up payment or personal information quickly. They want easy targets—so don’t make yourself one.
Know your rights.
If a debt collector calls you before 8 AM or after 9 PM, calls excessively, or uses threats such as telling others about your debt or putting you in jail, this indicates a scam. Behavior like this is also against the law and is something you can report to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you are unsure about whether you owe the debt, if it’s specifically yours, or if it’s legitimate, you can send a written request to the debt collector to ask for more information or to provide proof. This is why it’s important to acquire a physical address when you’re contacted. Not only does this buy you more time to do your research, but it also creates a written record of contact to protect you. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has sample letters available to help with this process.
If you do think you are being targeted by a scam, refuse to provide any personal or financial information, hang up the phone, and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you need help with debt collectors or reducing your debt entirely, PCS Debt Relief can help with our debt relief services that are tailored to your needs. We understand the burdens and stress that debt creates, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Call (636) 209-4481 for a free consultation to achieve financial stability.