How to Tell if You Have Been Called by a Phony Debt Collector

By Christina Austin

If you have unpaid bills that have been building for some time, you may have received calls from debt collectors. And if it’s not a call, you’ve probably received mail, or some other form of communication. The outreach can be stressful and overwhelming, and if it’s coming from a fake collector, illegal. Unfortunately,  enough people fall for fake debt collection scams, which are often tough to track down, that it’s worth the risk for certain individuals to impersonate a debt collector. On the surface, you may not be able to tell the difference between a legitimate call and a fake call. We will walk you through how to identify whether you’re dealing with a phony based on what they say or do and what to do in case you are.  

What happens on a phony debt collection call?

Once creditors have done all that they can to get in touch with you, they may pass off your debt to a collections agency they hire to continue working on repayment. Unfortunately, not all debt collectors you may hear from are associated with legitimate companies. A real debt collector will not threaten consequences if you do not pay your bill while on the phone with them. If you are threatened with negative consequences for not paying right at that moment, you are talking with someone who is trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money. They may say they are standing on the court steps waiting to walk in, or say they’ll reach out to relatives and neighbors if you don’t pay before hanging up. These are baseless threats that should not be taken seriously.

If the person you are speaking with is unwilling to provide a company website for their agency, you should be very skeptical. A simple internet search should be able to find the company you are speaking with, along with information that legitimizes the operation. If not, you should limit time spent speaking with the individual. Do not give out any personal information in this instance and cease communications immediately. 

Based on details they’ve gathered about you, fake debt collectors can sound very convincing. They can reference specific events from your past and seem to relate to what you’ve gone through. Anything you or others have posted about you online can be used to dupe you. Do not legitimize their endeavor by giving them more information to work with. Be tight-lipped until you can do your research about the company to ensure you are dealing with someone who can actually help you pay down your debt. The last thing you want when you’re in debt is for your money to go to a nefarious individual who is taking advantage of you.

What to do if you’re contacted by a fake debt collector

If you think you may be talking to a scammy debt collector, you should end communications as soon as possible. You don’t want to provide them any information about yourself or your debts. Take notes while you’re on the call. You should provide as much information as you can to governmental agencies like the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau or officials like your state’s attorney general. They will want to find the person or company impersonating a debt collector so that the operation can be stopped. This is no easy feat, since like their intentions, their information is often fake. For this reason, they are difficult to track down and shut down, so they keep popping up to scam new individuals. Regardless, any details you can provide could point investigators in the right direction. This could save you, and others, from dealing with the phony collector in the future.

You’ll also want to use a platform like Kredit to get in touch with your real creditors. Ask them what debt collection agency they are working with to confirm the identity of who you’ve spoken with. This is a way to protect your rights as laid out by agencies like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. It’s important to advocate for yourself and your rights in this situation to avoid shelling out money to someone who does not have your best interests in mind.

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