Scam artists continue to place a new twist on cons.
Some scams just don’t quit! Debt collection cons are one of the most prevalent scams, often there’s a new twist. This time, scammers are scaring victims into paying by claiming to have filed a “civil complaint” against them.
How the Scam Work:
You receive a call from someone claiming to be collecting money for an overdue payment. This “collection agent” informs you that a civil complaint was filed against you. Con artists do a great job of making this seem real. The scammer may provide specific details, such as the amount of the debt, the complaint case number and a phone number where you can follow up. As convincing as the information seems, it’s all phony.
If you call the number, another "agent" will claim that the company tried to contact you about the debt. Now, to avoid a pending lawsuit, you need to pay immediately. To do so, you need to make a wire transfer or load a prepaid debit card with the funds immediately.
Don’t do it! No matter how intimidating the threats seem, these phony collection agents don't have any legal power. In most cases, the debt doesn't even exist.
Protect Yourself from Debt Collector Cons:
To keep yourself protected against debt collector scams know your rights.
- Just hang up: If you don't have any outstanding loans, hang up. Don't press any numbers or speak to an "agent."
- Ask the debt collector to provide official "validation notice" of the debt: In the U.S, and most of Canada, 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. If the self-proclaimed collector won't provide the information, hang up.
- Ask the caller for his/her name, company, street address, and telephone number: Then, confirm that the collection agency is real.
- Do not provide or confirm bank account, credit card or other personal information: over the phone until you have verified the call.
- Check your credit report: In the U.S, check with one of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian). In Canada, check with Equifax Canada. This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report: If the scammer has personal information, place a fraud alert with the three national credit reporting companies.
For more information
Check out this article from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about dealing with fake debt collectors. See other Scam Alert coverage of debt collection scams, here.
To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.