The caller claims you owe on a debt. They know your social security number and one of your account numbers. Would you believe this could be a scam?
According to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, your next debt collection call could possibly be a scam. He is warning consumers to be mindful of what information they provide over the telephone, no matter how genuine the caller appears to be.
There are signs that some scammers are actually using private information that may have been obtained through data breaches of retailers or other entities. They are using this private information to pretend that they are a legitimate debt collector.
For some consumers, they know right away that they owe no money to the claimed debt collector. For others though, they owe so many creditors that they really don’t know. In some cases, the scammer may have knowledge of a debt that the consumer legitimately owes. After all, this information is clearly listed on their credit reports!
Some victims have wired money to pay off one of these phantom debts. Others provided their bank account information, only to have their checking accounts cleaned out by criminals.
There is one protection that consumers have that will protect them from these scams. Always request validation of any claimed debt that is owed within 30 days of the debt collector first contacting you. You have this right, and any debt collector that cannot validate this debt with you cannot legally pursue collection of that debt.
For some, the warning came too late. Not only did they lose money, they also gave out private information that opened up the doors for identity theft.
While data breaches can be damaging, most victims shoot themselves in the foot by voluntarily providing sensitive financial information without first obtaining verification that they are providing the information to a qualified debt collector. Simply calling the number that they provide is not proper verification, since anyone can set up an “official” call in number that purportedly belongs to the actual debt collector.
What makes matters worse is that these scammers prey on vulnerable consumers who bow to threats of legal action and illegal consequences if they don’t pay. The scammers have called the same victims repeatedly over a short period of time, harassing them with threats of jail time if they don’t pay today. Of course, debtors prisons are a thing of the past.
If you feel that you have been a victim of either a legitimate debt collector that is breaking debt collection laws or a scammer trying to pull a fast one, you should contact your state’s Attorney General to inquire about the firm. They can let you know if a firm is even licensed to practice debt collections in your state. You will also have the opportunity to file a formal complaint. Most Attorneys General target such abuses according to trends in consumer complaints to their offices, so it is important to make your voice known.
Never send payment for any debt that has not been properly validated. If you cannot verify that you actually owe a debt, then you probably should not pay it. A debt collector cannot satisfy the burden of proof in a court of law that you owe a debt if they fail to provide validation to you as a debtor.
Long is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Industrial Relations. He subsequently received his Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. His Certificate in Financial Planning was issued by Florida State University.
Long has achieved the Accredited Credit Counselor and Accredited Financial Counselor certifications through the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education. Long originally achieved the Certified Credit Counselor designation through the National Institute for Financial Education.
In addition to years of nonprofit leadership, Long has been an innovator in the field of volunteer tax return preparation programs. He assists volunteer associations and nonprofit organizations who seek to integrate credit counseling and asset-building programs with free personal income tax preparation. His approach to using free credit reports as both an incentive and a screening tool for placement into asset-building programs has been shared with members of the National Community Tax Coalition, the EITC-Carolinas Initiative of MDC, Inc. and nonprofit groups across the Carolinas.
Long assists members of our armed forces in the Carolinas, Iowa, Rhode Island, Georgia and Germany with financial readiness. Please support our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors!
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."