As consumers work to get better informed about debt collection scams, it seems like criminals get even smarter and more aggressive. It’s not difficult to get confused by creditors who seem legitimate, especially if you are behind on some of your debts. After all, the scam artists seem more trustworthy when you are already being hounded by less-than-scrupulous debt collectors.
By doing some investigation and learning more about your rights, you can be sure that you are only paying off debts that you actually owe. If you aren’t sure which category a debt collector falls into, the attorneys at Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC will always review your claims for free.
Threatening Or Abusive Language
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) as well as other state and federal statutes protect consumers from being abused by debt collectors. These laws prohibit debt collectors from calling at certain times, forbid abusive or threatening language on calls, and provide a wide variety of other protections. While not all legitimate debt collection companies always follow these laws, bogus debt collections agents are more likely to use abusive practices towards consumers.
For example, recently the Internal Revenue Service warned consumers about ongoing spam calls from people claiming to be representatives of the IRS. According to recorded warnings played during the calls or on voicemails, the caller threatened that the consumer would be arrested in the next 48 hours if arrangements were not made to pay for alleged back taxes immediately. Obviously, these callers were not sanctioned by the IRS and the consumers did not owe back taxes. One of the biggest red flags for consumers should have been that the company violated numerous laws in a single contact—they left voicemails discussing the debt, they threatened jail time even though it was impossible, there was no procedure to dispute or verify the debt, etc.
Lack Of Contact Information
Legitimate debt collection companies will freely provide you with their contact information, including the name of the company, the company’s physical address, and a phone number where they can be reached. Scam artists will either refuse to provide this information, or will be vague and unhelpful when it is requested. After all, once a debt collector provides you with an actual company name and physical location, they can be located if the consumer wants to file a lawsuit. Debt collectors engaging in criminal activities will not usually provide you with this information.
Lack Of Details Surrounding The Debt
A debt collector is required by law to verify the debt at the consumer’s request. In most cases, this is done through a verification letter, which contains the name of the original creditor, the account number, the amount due, and a breakdown of interest, fees, and other costs.
A scam artist will be unable to provide this information because no such debt exists. Alternatively, the information that the debt collector does provide may be completely incorrect or entirely unhelpful. For instance, the debt collector may send information about a debt belonging to someone else or information on a debt that is past the statute of limitations for collections. When the collections agent cannot verify this information or the company refuses to provide a verification letter, it is a sign that the debt is not legitimate.
Too Many Questions
Finally, a bogus debt collector will often ask too many questions, too many open-ended questions, or will request too much information. While it is normal for debt collection companies to verify your identity by asking for information like your mailing address or phone number, the debt collection agent should not be asking for information like your bank account numbers, your full credit card numbers, or other private financial information.
Alternatively, the person on the phone may fish for too much information by asking open-ended questions. Rather than telling you that they are calling about a Master Card credit card account ending in four numbers, they might instead ask you about your outstanding credit card balance and wait for you to supply the right information.
If you are speaking to a collections agent on the phone and you begin to feel uncomfortable, it is ok to hang up. If they are a legitimate collections agency and you need time to think, they will always call back. Never let yourself be pressured into providing personal information like your Social Security number, your bank account number, your user names and passwords, or your credit card number.
If you are being harassed by a debt collector or believe you may be the victim of a scam, you need the help of an experienced debtor rights attorney—like those at Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC—to review your case and discuss your options with you. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in all types of consumer defense cases and we are here to help you!