Sometimes folks just need a little help with bills, repairs or other financial commitments. It’s a time that might prompt consumers to take out a loan. But it’s also a time when consumers could be in a riskier or more vulnerable position.
And that’s something scammers seem adept at sniffing out.
According to the Better Business Bureau 2018 Risk Report, we had more than 2,800 reports of debt collection scams, with an average loss of $400. The scammers targeted consumers via telephone, and the top payment method was credit card.
Debt collection scams aren’t new, but scammers are switching up their tactics. In the past, the bad guys scared targets with threats of arrest or lawsuits, frightening victims into paying a nonexistent “debt.” Now, BBB.org/ScamTracker is seeing increasing reports that scammers have switched from “bad cop” to “good cop” in a similar version of the scam.
How the scam works
You receive an unsolicited call from a debt collection agency. The caller claims you have an old unpaid debt that is about to go to court. The person who speaks with you is extremely polite and appears to have your best interests at heart. They seem to sincerely want to help you avoid going to court. To fix the situation, all you need to do is make a reasonable payment, perhaps even divided up into several installments.
No matter how polite and helpful the caller, don’t fall for it. If you make the payment, the person you spoke to on the phone will take the money and run. Any future efforts to contact them will be in vain.
How to avoid debt collection scams
Ask for an official “Validation Notice” of the debt. In the U.S., debt collectors are required by law to send you a written notice that includes the amount of your debt, your rights and the name of the creditor. If a caller refuses to send you this information, you’re probably speaking with a scammer.
Ask for more information. If you do owe money and aren’t sure if the caller is real, ask for their name, company, street address and telephone number. Verify before paying.
Just hang up. If you know you don’t owe anyone money, hang up the phone immediately. Con artists don’t just steal money, they often try to obtain your personal information, too.
For more information
Learn more about debt collection scams by reading BBB.org/DebtCollectionScam.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, help others avoid the same fate by reporting what happened to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Find out more about scams at BBB.org/ScamTips and learn to protect yourself at BBB.org/AvoidScams.
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