MONEY: Better Business warns of debt collection scams

Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning consumers of fake debt collection scams. BBB has received several inquiries from consumers across Southern Arizona, including Sierra Vista, in the past month about questionable debt collection calls that appear to be from a local number. 

The local phone number that Southern Arizona consumers are reporting is most likely “spoofed,” meaning scammers are using an Internet dialer to make it appear as if the phone call is coming in from a local number, when in fact the scammers could be anywhere in the world. 

Debt collections scams can vary in how they’re carried out. In some instances consumers receive calls stating that they need to pay money for a loan that they may have never had or to pay a higher amount for a loan that they do have. 

The scammer may also threaten their victims with arrest to scare them into giving up their money, or begin contacting their victims’ friends and relatives, harassing them until someone sends them money. 

In some cases, it can be difficult to distinguish a legitimate debt collector versus a scammer. However, there are a few red flags consumers should look for. 

Calls seeking payment on a debt for a loan you don’t recognize.

Refusal by the caller to give you their own contact information.

Persistent request for personal financial or sensitive information.

High pressure tactics designed to scare you, by saying that you could get into legal trouble by not paying immediately.

If people call pretending to be debt collectors, consumers can be at high risk of identity theft. 

Consumers have to be cautious with these callers and must never give out personal information with people they do not 

BBB offers the following tips when dealing with a fake debt collector:

Ask the caller for contact information. Ask for their name, name of company, street address and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss debt until you receive a written “validation notice,” which is a written notice of the amount of debt and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 

Stop speaking with the caller. 

If you have the caller’s address, send a letter demanding him or her to stop contacting you. 

According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, if debt collectors receive this letter in writing, they must stop calling you. 

Don’t give personal information. 

If you don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with, never confirm sensitive information such as your bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers. 

Scammers use this information to commit identity theft. 

Contact your creditor. If you actually are in debt but you think the debt collector calling isn’t legitimate, contact your creditor, using contact information from your personal online

Your creditor is able to find out who the suspicious caller is and if they are authorized to collect a debt from you. 

Report the call. Don’t hesitate to call the Better Business Bureau,  FTC, or the  Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

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