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How to identify fake and abusive debt collectors

Dena Standley | October 19, 2022

Dena Standley
Legal Expert, Paralegal
Dena Standley, BA

Dena Standley is a seasoned paralegal with more than 20 years of experience in legal research and writing, having received a certification as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal from Southern Technical College.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: Have you been contacted about a debt you don't recognize? Do you suspect the debt collector is a fake? SoloSuit can help you identify fake debt collectors and their absuive collection practices.

While genuine debt collectors are simply doing their job, some debt collection practices are unfair or even illegal.

Even if you owe some debt, no one has the right to mistreat you in an attempt to collect a debt. Debt collectors are bound by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) laws. The FDCPA protects consumers, like you, from harassment and abusive debt collections practices. Unfortunately, even legitimate debt collectors often attempt to get away with abusive practices because they are betting on uninformed consumers who do not know their rights.

What if you don't recognize the debt? You could be dealing with fraudsters. Fake debt collectors are a growing problem. Their goal is to mislead you into paying money you don't owe or to make you a victim of identity theft.

Whether debt collectors are abusive or fake, they can cause you unnecessary stress. You can ease the stress by learning how to identify such collectors and so you can protect yourself.

Your response from the moment you receive a call from alleged debt collectors can help you identify any FDCPA violations, as well as recognize potential fraud attempts.

During the call

There's usually a moment of confusion when you first receive an unknown call. Consider ignoring calls from unknown numbers. Let voicemail screen those calls. But if you do answer the call:

Ask the caller to identify themselves

Anyone calling to collect a debt is required, by the law, to identify themselves fully. Ask the caller for their name, phone number, mailing address, and street address. You can also ask for their professional license number if your state licenses debt collectors.

If the caller refuses to give you this information, you may be speaking with a scammer. Asking questions not only gives you the information you need but also keeps you in control of the conversation, protecting you from exploitation.

They should identify you

Once they've identified themselves, it's time for them to identify you. It's not your job to tell callers who you are, what you do, where you live, or information about a debt. If they're calling to collect a debt, they should already have the necessary information.

Red flags during the identification process serve to alert you that you may be dealing with a fraudulent debt collector.

Watch out for threats

No debt collector has the right to threaten you in any way. Abusive debt collectors resort to scaring you into paying your debt.

The most common threats used by fraudulent and unprofessional debt collectors include:

  • Threats of arrest or criminal charges
  • Attempting to collect sensitive information about you
  • A failure to identify the debt, especially if you don't recognize it
  • Threatening to sue you when they can't do so directly
  • Stating they are with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

If the caller attempts any of the above, terminate the call without giving them any information.

Do they try to shame you?

When alleged debt collectors try to shame you into repaying a debt, they're overstepping their mandate. Some tactics they use to shame you are calling your work, calling friends or relatives who have no business being involved in your financial life, or threatening to list your debt publicly.

What time of day are they calling you?

The time of day when debt collectors call can indicate if theyre legitimate or not. According to the law, debt collectors should not call you outside of 8:am - 9:00 pm your time. They also can't contact you too many times about the same debt.

Do they use profanities or derogatory language?

Some debt collectors think (wrongly) that they can take their anger out on you. No matter how many calls they have to make in a day, and no matter how many rude debtors they have to deal with, they can't verbally abuse you.

Debt collectors should always speak professionally and respectfully. They can't call you "deadbeat" or anything like that.

Are they pressuring you?

Most fake debt collectors try to pressure you into making payments fast before you can validate the debt. They hope to hurry you into paying more than you owe or debt that doesn't belong to you.

Be on the watch for a caller pressuring you to make a commitment quickly, accept ownership of the debt, give personal address, or share financial information.

Fake debt collectors also pressure you to pay by prepaid cards or bank transfer.

Did they make your rights known to you?

Consider it a red flag if the caller doesn't give you a section 1692g notice. This notice informs you that you can dispute the debt within 30 days.

Unrecognized debt

Are they calling you about a debt you don't recognize, no matter how hard you try to remember it? If the caller refuses to give you more information about the debt, it could be a fraud. If you don't recognize a debt that youre being contacted about, don't rush into paying it off. Do your research to make sure it's a valid debt before making any payments.

Additionally, all debt collectors must send a message in writing within five days of contacting you about the debt. So, if you didn't receive a letter in the mail, you may have fraudsters on your hands.

After the call

If you suspect youve been contacted by a scammer about a fraudulent debt, you should immediately take the following steps to verify that the call is real.

Call your creditor

Call your creditors as soon as possible to find out if they've sold any of your debts to third-party debt collectors. If so, ask for complete information on the deb:; the debt collection company's name, address, and phone number, the original creditor, the amount, new interest rates, etc.

Check your credit report

The best way to confirm if a debt belongs to you is by requesting your credit report. There you'll find a record of your current and past debts and your repayment history. Also, check for expired debts according to your states statute of limitations.

Request your credit report from all three nationwide bureaus. You may call the Annual Credit Report Request Service (1-877-322-8228) or submit a request through the address:

Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O BOX 105281

Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281

After getting the report, check carefully for any inaccuracies such as names of creditors, dates, debts in your name, repayment records, etc.

How to protect yourself

During the call, stay calm. Even when dealing with aggressive debt collectors, don't lose your cool. Remember that if the debt is genuine, they may report the debt to a credit reporting agency, which will have a negative impact on your credit score.

Never give your personal or financial information to callers. You can escape their requests by citing security reasons and stating you will call them back instead. You can also request that all future communication take place in writing.

Even if you think the debt is yours, refrain from admitting ownership. The caller can't force you to own up. Offer to go through your financial records and then get back to them. If the debt is suspicious, you can dispute it within 30 days.

If you have debt collectors breathing down your neck about a debt, you should always request a debt validation. You can draft a Debt Validation Letter with SoloSuits help in minutes, send it to the collector, and get them off your back for good.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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