Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers to be on the lookout for scam bill collectors as well as bill collector harassment, especially around the holiday season.
The BBB has recently taken numerous phone calls from residents reporting harassing collections calls, especially this time of year as consumers are in full shopping mode for the Christmas season.
Callers complained they were, in many cases, being demanded to pay money which they did not owe – a scam that has become more active over the holiday season.
The BBB reports that nationally over the last 10 years, complaints regarding bill collector harassment have risen 58 percent. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the debt collection industry remains high on the list of industries against which consumers log regular complaints. BBB and the FTC reports that some consumers actually bowedto the pressure and paid debts they didn’t owe.
According to BBB, consumers should know what debt collectors can and can’t do, according to law. This helps consumers be able to identify scam collections efforts and protect their rights even if they do owe a debt.
Most importantly, debt collectors are not allowed to threaten residents with arrest, inundate them with calls, or make attempts to contact someone’s employer, friends or other members of a family. They also are prevented from calling before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
Debt collectors are also not allowed to threaten you with the possibility of having your wages garnished or threaten to bruise your reputation if you don’t pay.
Furthermore, more, any consumer facing debt collector harassment can request in writing that collections stop. At the very least, BBB says the consumer has the right to ask the collector to provide written verification of the outstanding debt before collection attempts can continue.
BBB offers the following tips to avoid being taken advantage of by real or scam debt collectors:
· Ask the debt collector to provide official “validation notice” of the debt. Debt collectors are required by law to provide the information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
· If you think thata caller may be a fake, ask for his name, company, street address, andtelephone number. Then, confirm that the collection agency is real.
· Do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have verified the call.
· Check your credit report for by going to annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228. This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity under your name.
· File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the caller uses threats.
· Stop collector calls. According to federal law, a debt collector cannot continue to contact you—at work or home—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 are turn 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.
Better Business Bureau works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.For more than 100 years, BBB has helped consumers make smarter buying decisions and is evolving to meet fast-changing marketplace needs.
BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St.Landry and Vermilion.