Your BBB just got a report from a couple of consumers in the Corpus Christi area who had the dickens scared out of them by a bogus debt collector. Luckily they didn’t get taken and would like to warn other consumers not to fall for similar schemes.
The “debt collector,” who had collected a lot of biographical information beforehand to try and sound more convincing, called a woman at work and said her adult son was in trouble over an outstanding debt and there was a warrant for his arrest.
The man also called her son and even though he knew he didn’t owe the debt, they scared him into giving up the number to his bank debit card, saying “the warrant would be recalled” if he did so. They threatened him with losing his house, his job, all sorts of scary stuff. Luckily, he talked to relatives, who convinced him he was being scammed. He called his bank, had the account blocked so the scammers couldn’t get any money and ordered a new debit card.
If you receive a call from a debt collector you believe may be phony, BBB advises you to follow these steps:
- Ask questions about the supposed debt. If the caller cannot tell you who he or she works for, the business who hired the company to collect the debt, what the actual debt is from or how much you owe, these are signs the caller may be trying to scam you.
- Request proof of the debt in writing. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act requires a debt collector to give you a validation notice within five days of contacting you about a debt. Ask the caller for this and also tell him to stop contacting you. By law, debt collectors have to stop contacting you until they can provide written proof that your debt is real.
- Never confirm or give out any personal information. Sometimes the purpose of a phony debt collection scam is to steal your identity or your money. Until the caller can send you written proof, never give him your personal information.
- File complaints. Report any problems with debt collectors to your Better Business Bureau, your state’s Attorney General’s office or the Federal Trade Commission. Make sure to include all the details so BBB can help spread the word to protect others.
If you get a call about a debt you DO owe, you still have rights. While it does not eliminate legitimate debts, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires debt collectors to treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection. Personal, family and household debts are covered under the Act.
Under FDCPA, debt collectors:
- may not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree (Section 805 (a)(1))
- must not contact you if you write a letter to the collector telling the company to stop.(Section 805(c))
- must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money, within five days of initial contact. (Section 809(a))
- may not contact you if you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe the money within 30 days after you receive the written notice. (Section 809(b))