Mortgage Payment Scam
Consumers around Acadiana have reported receiving a phone call stating that their mortgage was way behind, and this company was there to help.
The truth is the mortgage was not late. The scam artist was playing the debt-collector dialing-for-dollars numbers game. He knew a certain percentage of the population is behind on the mortgage and susceptible to big promises of false help and hope. Fortunately for some, hanging up the phone ends the scheme.
According to a 2010 report, the Federal Trade Commission received 119,364 complaints about third-party and in-house debt collectors last year, up from 104,766 in 2008. While complaints can be about any number of issues, trying to collect on a debt the consumer doesn't owe is common. In a recent example, the FTC reached a million-dollar settlement with Credit Bureau Collection Services over accusations that the collection agency violated federal law by inaccurately reporting credit information and pressing consumers to pay debts they often did not owe.
If you're receiving calls for a debt you don't owe, it could be a case of mistaken identity or a case of zombie debt (Blue-don’t’ you love this “new” word???) (you paid the original debt off but it wasn't recorded as paid). Or you could have become a victim of identity theft. In our case, the "debt collector" was an identity thief trying to get me to divulge personal financial information such as Social Security, bank and credit card numbers.
If you're being pursued for a debt you don't think you owe, Better Business Bureau recommends taking the following five steps:
1. Request written proof of the debt. By law, a debt collection agency must provide you with a validation notice. Once you have the name and contact information for the agency, confirm it is a legitimate debt collector with the BBB at www.bbb.org.
2. Correct any errors. After confirming you do not owe the debt, write a detailed letter to the legitimate collection agency including copies of pertinent documents that back your case. The FTC provides additional information on how to report errors at www.ftc.gov.
3. Weed out fraud and errors. Check your credit report with the three major credit reporting bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
4. Tell them to stop contacting you. After confirming you do not owe the debt in question, you may cease all contact from the debt collection company by sending a letter via certified mail to the debt collector advising it to cease contact.
5. File a complaint with the FTC. If a debt collector violates the law, notify both the FTC and the BBB.
For more detailed information, check out the BBB's NewsCenter at bbb.org or call 981-3497 for more info.