Consumers who owe money
or are behind on their bills may be legitimately contacted by debt collectors
to pay off debts. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern
North Carolina warns consumers, however, that phony debt
collectors are lurking.
Debt collectors seek to
reclaim funds on past-due accounts on behalf of creditors, businesses or
individuals, but sometimes the "debt collector" calling turns out to
be an identity thief who is trying to get you to divulge personal or financial
information. These fraudulent calls can be harassing, threatening and potentially
“Consumers need to know the red
flags for fraudulent debt collectors,” said Toby Barfield, president
and CEO of BBB serving Eastern North Carolina.
“If the collector refuses to reveal the name of his agency or demands that the
payments be made in cash or money transfer only, consumers need to report this
immediately to the Federal Trade Commission.”
is important for consumers to verify the alleged debt before taking action. BBB
recommends doing the following:
Request written proof. Get documentation to help
determine if the callers are identity thieves or if a debt is actually owed.
By law, a debt collection agency must provide a validation notice within
five days of contacting you about the debt. Within 30 days of receiving the
validation notice, send the debt collector a written request to further verify
the debt details. Do not provide
personal or financial information unless the validity of the debt and the debt
collector has been confirmed.
Verify the legitimacy. Ask for the debt collector's name
and contact information to research the agency further. Cross-check their
contact information and call them using a phone number from a public directory.
Verify that the representative who called is affiliated with the agency. Also,
visit bbb.org to view the agency’s Business Review.
Stop phony calls. Be wary if the debt cannot be
verified or if no documentation is received. Advise them to stop contacting you
and register with the National Do Not Call Registry at www.DoNotCall.gov or 888-382-1222.
you do not owe the alleged debt, BBB recommends doing the following:
Do not ignore the collector. It is
best to respond immediately, even if you do not believe the debt is yours.
Otherwise, the collector may continue contacting you or file a judgment.
Do not pay. Do not
claim a debt that is not yours or make a payment on a bill just to make the
collector "go away." Even just one payment can indicate that you are
accepting the full responsibility of the debt.
Contest errors. If no
debt is confirmed, contact any involved parties to clear up inaccuracies on
your credit report. Write a detailed letter and include supporting documents to
prove your case. The FTC provides additional
resources for reporting errors.
BBB recommends doing the following for debt you
your responsibilities. It is not against the law for a debt collector or creditor to contact
you regarding unpaid debts. Try
working with them to resolve issues. Discuss developing a payment plan and
request obligations in writing.
about abusive practices. Report
harassment, threats and other violations
of federal telemarketing laws to the FTC. File a BBB
complaint if you believe a debt collector is acting unethically. Review the
Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which sets standards for collection
agencies and prohibits abusive tactics.
collector calls. According to federal
law, a debt collector cannot continue to contact you if you tell them to stop.
Write a letter stating not to contact you anymore. Save a copy of the letter
then send the original via certified mail and request a return receipt. If a
debt is owed, the collector or creditor can still take legal action to collect
funds and may contact you to inform you of their action.