Watch out for Fake Debt Collectors, BBB Tips to Protect Yourself

April 15, 2014

Have you ever gotten a call from someone saying they’re with a government agency or the sheriff’s office and threatens that you’ll be sued or arrested if you don’t pay a supposed debt? This is a scam! The people contacting you are imposters looking to scare you into sending them money. Don’t give in to harassing calls from fake debt collectors who try to pressure you into paying money that you don’t owe. Scammers are being more deceptive than ever, BBB urges consumers to be cautious when this type of threatening call is received.


Typically, the caller says they are from an agency that sounds official, but actually doesn’t exist, like “The Civil Investigations Unit.” They state they are contacting you regarding an outstanding debt and further make it sound legitimate by including claim numbers and urgency that the matter must be handled immediately or an arrest warrant will be issues or court action taken. The scammer uses fear to evoke action out of the victim, often times making the victim feel like they must comply, even though the debt is not legitimate.


Despite the threats, these “debt collectors” don’t have any power over you.  Don’t give in and pay money you don’t owe; it’s likely scammers will just be back for more. Below is advice on how to deal with these intimidating calls.

If you receive a harassing call from a debt collector, the best protection against debt collection scams is simply knowing your rights.

  • 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 that a caller may be a fake, ask for his name, company, street address, and telephone number.  Then, confirm that the collection agency is real. Research them online.
  • 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 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.
  • If the scammer has a great deal of personal information about you, be safe and place a fraud alert on your credit report.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the caller uses threats. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collections from being abusive, unfair or deceptive.
  • Federal government agencies don’t ask people to send money for unpaid loans. If you still feel unsure, look up the official number of the agency the caller is pretending to represent so you can get the real story. There’s no legitimate reason for someone to ask you to wire money or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay back a debt. Even if a debt is real, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the debt is legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.