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Having to deal with debt collectors can be stressful. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of this by scamming others. Fraudulent scams aim to collect money from people who don’t suspect it. They use intimidation, deception, and threats to do this. This article will help you spot debt collector scams and protect yourself. If you think someone is trying to scam you, we’ll explain what you can do to respond.

Recognizing Red Flags of Debt Collector Scams

To avoid debt collector scams, you must know the warning signs. Some scammers are clever, but certain warning signs suggest a possible scam.

  • Aggressive tactics: Debt collectors who follow the law can’t threaten, harass, or use abusive language. The law they follow is called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). If a debt collector is overly aggressive or threatening, it’s a sign that they may not be legitimate.
  • Requests for personal information: A debt collector already has your personal info, like your name, address, and Social Security number. If they ask for this information, it could be an attempt to steal your identity or commit fraud.
  • Demands for immediate payment: Scammers may hurry you to pay promptly by threatening or intimidating you. Debt collectors who are legit will help you set up a payment plan or discuss other options.
  • Unfamiliar debts: It may be a scam if you don’t recognize or already paid a debt and a debt collector is trying to collect it. Scammers often focus on people who owe old or non-existent debts. They do this hoping that the person doesn’t remember the specifics.
  • Unusual payment methods: Legitimate debt collectors accept common forms of payment like checks or credit cards. Debt collectors who ask you to pay in a strange way, like a wire transfer or using a prepaid debit card, might be trying to scam you.

Verifying Debts and Debt Collectors

  • Debt collectors may contact you, but some may be scammers. So, to be safe, make sure to check if the debt and the collector are legitimate. Here are some steps you can take:
  • You can ask the debt collector to show proof of the debt. The law (FDCPA) lets you do this. This requires them to provide proof that the debt is valid and that they have the legal right to collect it. If the debt collector cannot provide this information, they may not be legitimate.
  • Check your credit report to see if the debt in question is on there. If it doesn’t, it may be a sign that the debt collector is attempting to collect a fraudulent debt.
  • Research the debt collector. Search their name, phone number, and address online to ensure they are a real company.

Reporting Debt Collector Scams

If you think someone is trying to scam you as a debt collector, report it to the authorities right away. Reporting a scam can protect others and result in legal action against the scammers. Here’s where to report debt collector scams:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC enforces the FDCPA and can take action against debt collectors who violate the law.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): The CFPB regulates debt collection at the federal level. They can take action against scammers who break the rules.
  • Your state attorney general’s office: Many states have consumer protection laws that regulate debt collection practices. Report the scam to your state attorney general and inquire about next steps.

Protecting Yourself from Debt Collector Scams

To avoid debt collector scams, do more than notice warning signs or check debts. There are other measures you can take to keep yourself safe:

  • Don’t provide personal information: Do not share personal info (e.g., Social Security/Bank account) with suspicious debt collectors to avoid scams.
  • Don’t make payments under pressure: If a debt collector is pressuring you to make an immediate payment, it’s a sign that they may not be legitimate. Take the time to verify the debt and the collector before making any payments.
  • Keep records: Keep a record of every time you talk to debt collectors, whether by phone, email, or letter. This documentation can be crucial if you need to file a complaint or pursue legal action.