In this day and age, it is not much of a surprise to learn that a growing number of scammers are falsifying information to get consumers not only to fork over money, but also give important personal financial information.
If you receive a phone and/or letter from what appears to be a suspicious source, there are several ways to verify the legitimacy of the caller or sender of the letter.
Moreover, you need to watch for warning signs and follow a few tips to keep your financial information safe, as well as learn how the Fair Debt collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you against aggressive and unethical debt collection agency tactics.
How to Confirm a Third Party Debt Collector is for Real
If you believe you are being scammed by a fraudulent bill collector, ask the caller for his or her name and a phone number that you will call immediately after ending the conversation.
By explaining you plan to call the phone number immediately after your call ends, a fake collection agency representative will hang up the phone. You also want the name and business address of the debt collection agency.
Beware of P.O. Box numbers, as it is virtually impossible to verify post office box addresses. Request the caller recite the professional license number of the third party debt collector. Most states require third party debt collectors to apply for special business licenses.
After receiving the professional license number, contact the state attorney general office to confirm the validity of the number. Above all, clearly explain you will not engage in further phone conversations with the caller.
Request Written Confirmation
A phone call should not be the only method you use to validate the legitimacy of a third party debt collector. You should also request written confirmation that includes the following information:
- Amount of debt
- Name of the original creditor
- The Legal rights granted by the FDCPA
You can write the letter, but by hiring a licensed consumer protection attorney, the letter you send will notify the bill collector that you have gained legal counsel.
What to Avoid
One of the tricks debt collection agency scammers use involves implementing strategies to get you to reveal sensitive financial information. Under no circumstances should you divulge a credit card number.
You should never reveal bank information, such as a checking or a savings account number. Never share your Social Security Number with anyone over the phone, much less someone who claims he or she represents a third party debt collector.
If you reveal sensitive personal financial information, one or more of the following events might occur:
- Unauthorized charges on one or more credit cards
- Opening of a new checking or credit card account
- Applying for loans
- Writing checks that bounce
Know When Your Rights are Being Violated
After you perform thorough research into the legitimacy of an alleged bill collector, you might still have doubts about the caller. The FDCPA prohibits debt collection agencies from issuing threats or using deceptive techniques that include misrepresentation.
Even if a third party debt collector turns out to be legitimate, the bill collector might have violated one or more provisions of the landmark FDCPA.
Speak with an experienced FDCPA lawyer immediately after receiving what you believe to be a call from a fake debt collection agency. Your lawyer has the option to contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Attorney General’s office in the state where you live.