In today’s challenging economic times, it’s no surprise that criminals are preying upon wary consumers in an attempt to collect bogus debts. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers across the country are reporting creditor calls on loans they never received or on amounts they do not owe.
Often armed with some of your key personal information, such as a bank account number, a fake debt collector can be often be hard to spot. The FTC explains that a caller may be a scam artist if they:
- Are seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize
- Refuse to give you a mailing address or phone number
- Ask you for personal financial or sensitive information
- Exert high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or report you to a law enforcement agency
If you suspect that a caller may be a fake debt collector, the FTC advises you to ask the caller for their name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
If a caller refuses to give you all of this information, the FTC stresses that you should not pay. Here are the steps you should take instead:
- Stop speaking with the caller. If you have the caller’s address, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing.
- Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know whom you’re dealing with. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft.
- Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
- Report the call. Contact the FTC and the state Attorney General’s office with information about suspicious callers. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.