Debt collectors can contact you directly when creditors sell your unpaid debt to a collection agency. Fraudsters posing as legitimate debt collectors may also target you, using deception or intimidation to collect debts you don’t owe or they don’t have the authority to collect.

It’s probably not right if something seems off. These are some red flags of debt collection scams.

  1. The Debt Collector Breaks the Law

Debt collectors are prohibited from engaging in many types of abusive or deceptive behavior under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Since fraudulent debt collectors break the law already, they may not be as careful to avoid the following illegal behavior:

  • Threatening you with violence, jail time, or other wrongful consequences.
  • Speaking in vulgar terms.
  • Consistently harassing you by phone.
  • Lying about the amount owed.

Contacting you outside of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

  • Contacting you at work if your employer does not allow it.
  • Contacting third parties other than your attorney, credit bureaus, the original creditor or their attorneys regarding your debt.

Just because a debt collector breaks the law doesn’t mean they’re committing fraud. Even if the debt is valid, the debt collector violated your FDCPA rights, and you should document these violations so you can be protected.

  1. Demands for Immediate Payment

Debt collectors may ask you to pay over the phone immediately, but you are not required to do so. Rather, gather more information about the debt; it may be illegitimate, or you may not owe the amount they claim you do.

The FDCPA requires debt collectors to send you a written notice, within five days of first contacting you, containing the amount of your debt, the name of your creditor and instructions for requesting more information or disputing the debt. Within 30 days of your first contact, you can send a verification letter asking for more information, including proof that you owe the debt.

Whatever you do, don’t immediately pay over the phone. Make sure that the debt is legitimate before you pay.

  1. Unusual Payment Methods

The “debt collector” asking you to pay your debt with gift cards, wire transfers or some other unusual payment method is a big red flag. Once they’ve been sent, these payment methods are more difficult to track and recover.

  1. Demands for Personal Information

You shouldn’t have to provide details about your bank account, credit card number, Social Security number, or any other personal information to a debt collector. They might be trying to rack up fraudulent charges on your accounts or commit identity theft if they ask for this information. Do not give them any sensitive information.

What to Do When You Get Called About a Debt

You can take these steps if you get a call from someone claiming to be a debt collector:

  • Document everything. Record and save every call, letter, and other communication you receive. Write down the names of all the people you speak to, the name of the debt collection agency (including its phone number and street address) and everything you discuss.
  • Request more information. When a debt collector contacts you, ask for a debt validation letter that provides more information within 30 days. The debt collector should be able to provide more information upon request if the debt is legitimate. It is a sign the collector cannot or won’t provide more information if the debt is illegitimate, or if they can’t back up their collection efforts. Do your own research and gather as much information as you can if you believe the debt is real.
  • Ask them to stop calling. To stop the debt collector from calling, send a written request to the business address asking to cease communication. While this will not erase the debt, it can prevent legitimate debt collectors from contacting you other than to confirm that they can stop calling you and to inform you of any further actions like a lawsuit.
  • File a complaint. To report scams or illegal behavior, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state’s attorney general’s office. Detailed information should be included in your report.

Is your personal information on the dark web? Make sure your identity isn’t at risk!