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A phony debt collection scam is when scammers try to get you to pay them money that you don’t owe. They will harass you for weeks or even months, both at work and at home. They will threaten to sue you, have you arrested, or make you appear in court.
Officials have been inundated with reports from consumers saying scammers are pretending to be debt collectors. The scammers are targeting the most vulnerable people (like those with developmental disabilities), and demanding that they pay off a debt that they never incurred. They are also threatening them with arrest if they don’t comply right away. The Better Business Bureau even issued an alert after numerous complaints.
A fake debt collector will withhold information from you: If a debt collector contacts you, they must provide information such as the name of the company requesting payment, the amount of money that you owe, and verification of the debt. Plus, if they don’t provide this information, they must send you a written notice within five days of the time they contacted you.
You have no idea about the debt they claim that you owe. Ask them questions about this debt. If the answers don’t sound right, this may be a scam.
They ask for your confidential financial information. They may ask for your bank account number, routing number, credit card numbers or Social Security Number. Don’t reveal this information to them unless you are confident that this is a legitimate call. A scammer will take this information and use it to steal your money via identity theft.
They will insist that you pay the debt with a money transfer or prepaid card. This is because these types of payments aren’t traceable, so they won’t get caught. If you pay this way, it will be difficult to get your money back.
A scammer may say you’ll go to jail if you don’t pay. They may say they are a government official – and if you don’t send them the money they’ll prosecute you for failure of payment and you’ll go to jail.
They may threaten that if you don’t pay they’ll tell others. They may tell you that they’ll reveal your debts to your employer, coworkers, friends and family. It’s important to know that a debt collector can never tell others about your debt without your permission.
Scammers usually call at inconvenient times. They’ll call after or before hours, or during dinner time. If you get a call before 8 am or after 9 pm, it’s probably a scammer calling.
Get their contact information. Ask for their information such as a callback number, their name, the name of their company, their address and what department they work in. Then call back to see if this is a legitimate caller.
Contact your creditors. Make sure that the person calling wasn’t from a creditor that you owe money to. If the scammer says that they’re calling from your mortgage company, call them to see if this was a legitimate call.
Check your credit report. You’re entitled to a free credit report once a year from the three consumer reporting companies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax). You can get this by calling (877) 322-8228 or going to AnnualCreditReport.com. However, remember that not all debt collectors and creditors provide information to these credit reporting companies. Just because a debt isn’t listed on your credit report, doesn’t mean that it’s not valid.
File a complaint with the FTC. If you believe you’ve been a victim of a phony debt collection scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission:
Click here to report someone falsely claiming to be from the government, a business, or a family member.
Concerned about how a company is handling your personal information? Click here to report privacy concerns. (Use the Identity Theft category to report identity theft.)
Or, you can file contact your state Attorney General.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a great resource as well. They are a U.S. government agency that makes sure banks, lenders and other financial companies treat you fairly. And they hold companies accountable for illegal practices. They also listen to consumers and make their voices heard.
The team at GOConcepts can help to protect your confidential business information. We’ve been providing managed information technology services for Ohio County Boards of Developmental Disabilities since 2013 and consulting to numerous other governmental subdivisions since 1997.
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