It’s fairly easy to identify a scamster who is trying to collect a debt you’re sure you don’t owe. However, if you have debt or more that is past due, discerning genuine debt collectors from scammers might not be simple. This is because scam debt collectors are known to get consumers’ information through different means and then force them to make payments over the phone. Fortunately, you may avoid getting scammed by such debt collectors if you pay attention to a few simple aspects.
Just because a debt collector contacts you via social media does not mean he or she is fake. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), debt collectors may contact debtors via their personal phone numbers, email addresses, as well as social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The red flags you need to avoid come in other forms.
Abuse and Undue Harassment
While some legitimate debt collectors may indulge in underhanded collection practices, a scammer has no reason to refrain from using aggressive language and blatant threats. They might tell you they’ll file a lawsuit against you immediately, or even that you might face arrest soon. Remember that real debt collectors need to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), whereas scammers are under no such obligation.
Demand for Immediate Payment
It is common for genuine debt collectors to pressurize debtors into paying their debts, because this usually affects their paycheck. However, scam debt collectors go beyond using usual pressure tactics, and often try to scare consumers into making payments immediately – giving them little or no time to think.
If a debt collector insists on receiving a payment via a wire transfer, and offers no other payment method, it is, in all likelihood, a scam. Genuine debt collection agencies typically accept payments in different ways, be it online or over the phone.
Unrecognized Account or Creditor
If a debt collector contacts you about a debt that you have no recollection of, or if you don’t recognize the creditor, it’s reason enough to be wary. In any such scenario, you have the right to request for proof of the debt in the form of debt validation before having to make any payment. You can also look for the debt in question by going through your credit report. However, credit-related entries older than seven years are typically wiped clean.
Asking for Information They Should have
When debt collectors take over your debts, they receive different information about you from creditors. This includes your complete name, date of birth, account number, phone number, address, and all or part of your Social Security Number. If a debt collector asks you for any of this information, view it as a red flag. This is because it might be an attempt at phishing, which may lead to fraud and even identity theft.
They Don’t Provide Contact Details
When called by a debt collector, ask for the debt collection agency’s name and contact details. A genuine debt collector will have no trouble in providing this information. If, on the other hand, a debt collector is unwilling to part with this information, it’s as big a red flag as any. Even if a debt collector provides this information, confirm if it’s real by carrying out an online search.
What Else You Need to Do
When contacted by a debt collector, make sure to follow these steps.
- Insist on getting the caller’s name, name of the collection agency, phone number, address, and professional license number.
- Ask for a written debt validation notice. The collector needs to send this within five days of making initial contact.
- Check for the debt in three major credit reports – issued by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Carry out an online search using the caller’s phone number. You might find complaints about it belonging to a scam agency.
If you feel you are at the receiving end of an unrelenting scam debt collector, you might consider seeking assistance from professionals who specialize in debt validation. This way, you know you’ve covered all your bases.