Many Scam Victims Have Significant Debt After A Scam Ends
In many cases, this means having to face collection efforts.
This article will provide a tool to help you avoid debt collection scams (yes, you scammers many times know that you took out loans and will try to scam you again), and to better control real debt collectors.
Please see our 4 Step Guide for Debt Management
About Debt Collection & Spotting Scams
How Can I Verify Whether Or Not A Debt Collector Is Legitimate?
If you have debts, the odds are you are going to get calls from collection agencies – some will be real, some may not be.
Ask the caller for their name, company, street address, telephone number, and if they are state-licensed debt collectors, a professional license number (not only ask if they are but ask for the license number). You can also ask for and refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” Do not give personal or financial information to the caller until you have confirmed it is a legitimate debt collector.
Here are a few warning signs that could signal a debt collection scam:
- The debt collector threatens you with criminal charges. Legitimate debt collectors should not claim that they’ll have you arrested.
- The debt collector refuses to give you information about your debtor is trying to collect a debt you do not recognize. You have certain rights to ask a debt collector about the debt, including when you don’t believe you owe the debt. You can use the sample letter below to request more information. Ask for an explanation in writing before you pay.
- The debt collector refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number.
- The debt collector asks you for sensitive personal financial information. You should never provide anyone with your personal financial information unless you are sure they’re legitimate.
If You Think That A Call May Be A Scam Or A Fake Debt Collector
Ask the caller for a name, company, street address, telephone number, and professional license number. Many states or countries require debt collectors to be licensed. Check the information the caller provides you with your government. Your state regulator or national licensing body may be of assistance if they license debt collectors. If the caller refuses or is unable to provide you with information about the company, or if you can’t verify the information provided, do not give information or money to the caller or company.
In many countries, debt collectors actually work for the courts – be sure to understand what process your country follows.
Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.”
This notice must include:
- The amount of the debt
- The name of the creditor you owe
- A description of certain rights under the U.S. federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or equivalent in your country.
You can consider sending the collector a letter requesting the information by using one of the CFPB’s sample letters. You can also submit a complaint to the CFPB or you can contact your state Attorney General’s office. There will be a similar process in most countries – go online and look for the legal debt collection process in your country.
Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know the company or person you are talking with is a real debt collector.
Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft such as:
- Charging your existing credit cards
- Opening new credit card or checking accounts
- Writing fraudulent checks
- Taking out loans in your name
Contact your creditor. 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. Refer to our 4 Step Guide about contacting your creditors.
Report the call. Submit a complaint with the CFPB or get in touch with your state Attorney General’s office or with your local government with information about suspicious callers.
Stop speaking with the caller. If nothing else works and you believe the calls are fraudulent, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files.
You can use this sample letter to write a letter demanding the debt collector stop contacting you. By law, debt collectors in the U.S. must stop calling you if you ask them to communicate only in writing.
However, telling a debt collector to stop contacting you does not make the debt go away and it does not stop a debt collector from reporting the debt to credit reporting companies or suing you.
If you’re having trouble with debt collection, you can submit a complaint with the U.S. CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372) – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom all have similar protective services – search for them online.
More Information About Collections
Sample Response Letter
First, you must get the address or email address of the collector.
You can tell them you will respond in writing using the sample letter below. Use the sample letter below to ask for more information about this debt and to give you confirmable information about the debt and the collector.
How to use this sample letter:
- Fill in your information on the sample letter and edit it as needed to fit your situation.
- Delete any parts that don’t apply to you.
- Print and send or email the letter as soon as you can.
- Keep a copy for your records.
- You should consider sending the letter by certified mail or another method by which you can establish when the letter is received by the intended recipient. A Read Receipt on email also works.
The Basics Of Using This Approach
Send this letter as soon as you can — if at all possible, within 30 days of when a debt collector contacts you the first time about a debt. This is important because, under the U.S. Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, your legal rights to obtain verification information from a debt collector are greater during the 30-day period. This is probably true in other countries too – time works against you!
When a debt collector is asking you to pay money, you’re entitled to ask for details. The sample letter below will help you to get details on the following:
- Why a debt collector thinks you owe this debt.
- The amount of the debt and how old it is.
- Details about the debt collector’s authority to collect this money.
A debt collector may not have a legal obligation to provide some or all of the information you seek, even if you request it within the 30-day period. If the collector doesn’t give you what you request, that doesn’t necessarily mean the debt collector has broken any laws or has given up a legal right to collect from you, or is a scammer.
When you have doubts about a collector do contact your government consumer protection agency to find out what is required and what your rights are.
After You Send Your Letter
- If the debt collector makes vague statements about what will happen if you do not pay, read their response to your letter carefully. If they tell you that they intend to sue you, you should take that seriously. Federal law prohibits a debt collector from threatening to take any action they can’t take or that they don’t intend to take.
If you have specific questions, you may want to contact a licensed civil attorney or solicitor to help you. If you need a lawyer, you can use these or search for attorneys in your country:
- Review this list of state legal services.
- Find lawyer referrals in your county and state by visiting the websites for your local or county bar association, or legal aid.
U.S. State laws have statutes of limitations, or limited time periods when creditors or debt collectors can file a lawsuit to collect a debt.
- These periods of time can be two years or longer.
- The period of time varies by state and by the type of debt.
- In some states, even a partial payment on the debt will restart the time period – keep this in mind.
If you suspect that the debt may be beyond the statute of limitations, you may want to consult a lawyer before making any payment on a debt.
Not all states require debt collectors to be licensed. Where a license is required, knowing whether or not a debt collector is licensed may be useful. If the debt collector isn’t conducting themselves properly, you can contact the state licensing agency.
Copy and paste the following and then edit as required:
[Your return physical mailing/postal address][Date][Debt collector name]
[Debt collector Address]
Re: [Account number for the debt, if you have it]
Dear [Debt collector name]:
I am responding to your contact about a debt you are trying to collect. You contacted me by [phone/mail], on [date] and identified the debt as [any information they gave you about the debt]. Please supply the information below so that I can be fully informed:
Why you think I owe the debt and to whom I owe it, including:
- The name and address of the creditor to whom the debt is currently owed, the account number used by that creditor, and the amount owed.
- If this debt started with a different creditor, provide the name and address of the original creditor, the account number used by that creditor, and the amount owed to that creditor at the time it was transferred. When you identify the original creditor, please provide any other name by which I might know them, if that is different from the official name. In addition, tell me when the current creditor obtained the debt and who the current creditor obtained it from.
- Provide verification and documentation that there is a valid basis for claiming that I am required to pay the debt to the current creditor. For example, can you provide a copy of the written agreement that created my original requirement to pay?
- If you are asking that I pay a debt that somebody else is or was required to pay, identify that person. Provide verification and documentation about why this is a debt that I am required to pay.
The amount and age of the debt, including:
- A copy of the last billing statement sent to me by the original creditor.
- State the amount of the debt when you obtained it, and when that was.
- If there have been any additional interest, fees or charges added since the last billing statement from the original creditor, provide an itemization showing the dates and amount of each added amount. In addition, explain how the added interest, fees or other charges are expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or are permitted by law.
- If there have been any payments or other reductions since the last billing statement from the original creditor, provide an itemization showing the dates and amount of each of them.
- If there have been any other changes or adjustments since the last billing statement from the original creditor, please provide full verification and documentation of the amount you are trying to collect. Explain how that amount was calculated. In addition, explain how the other changes or adjustments are expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.
- Tell me when the creditor claims this debt became due and when it became delinquent.
- Identify the date of the last payment made on this account.
- Have you made a determination that this debt is within the statute of limitations applicable to it? Tell me when you think the statute of limitations expires for this debt, and how you determined that.
Details about your authority to collect this debt.
- I would like more information about your firm before I discuss the debt with you. Does your firm have a debt collection license from my state? If not, say why not. If so, provide the date of the license, the name on the license, the license number, and the name, address and telephone number of the state agency issuing the license.
- If you are contacting me from a place outside my state, does your firm have a debt collection license from that place? If so, provide the date of the license, the name on the license, the license number, and the name, address and telephone number of the state agency issuing the license.
I have asked for this information because I have some questions. I need to hear from you to make an informed decision about your claim that I owe this money. I am open to communicating with you for this purpose. In order to make sure that I am not put at any disadvantage, in the meantime please treat this debt as being in dispute and under discussion between us.
In addition to providing the information requested above, please let me know whether you are prepared to accept less than the balance you are claiming is owed. If so, please tell me in writing your offer with the amount you will accept to fully resolve the account.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Dealing With Collections Is Not Easy
Sadly, we cannot stop the debts that you may owe, but our goal is to give you information or provide guidance that may help you stay in control and reduce your stress as you go through this challenge.
We wish you the best of luck, but remember you always have options if you exercise them early enough!
For More Information About Scam Victim Financial Recovery:
Select the following SCARS Articles & Guides for more information: