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Security & privacy

Behind on your bills? How to spot phony debt collectors

There are plenty of annoying calls that can make their way to your phone these days. Political calls, surveys and even spammy robocalls are common. But out of all the calls you can get, debt collectors have got to be the worst.

Nobody likes dealing with collections calls, but there are smart ways to handle your debt that go beyond simply cutting up your credit cards. Tap or click here to see what you need to do before closing an open card account.

If you get a call from what looks to be a debt collector, you might want to think twice before setting up a payment arrangement. Scammers are now pretending to be debt collectors to trick victims — and some of these callers are downright aggressive. Here’s what you should do the next time you get one of these nasty calls.

The worst people in the world pretend to be the worst kind of caller

Phone scammers are switching up tactics again as part of a new attempt to extort victims. The FTC issued a warning that some aggressive or abusive debt collectors making calls around the country are not who they seem. As it turns out, they’re actually scammers — and playing ball with them can lead to you losing money or worse.

If you get a call from someone claiming be a debt collector, they may be a scammer if they do any of the following:

  • Ask you to repay a debt you don’t recognize.
  • Refuse to give you contact information if you ask for it.
  • Pressure, bully or intimidate you into paying a debt. This can include threats to take legal action or call law enforcement.

As scary as it is to hear a threat over the phone, this sort of behavior is nothing new for scammers.

Tap or click to see the FBI impersonation scam that’s threatening seniors by phone.

How can I spot the fake collections calls?

One of the easiest ways to call out a fake debt collector is to verify they’re actually calling about a debt you owe. In this case, the law is on your side: If you ask for validation information by phone or in writing, debt collectors are required by law to give it to you.

This includes:

  • The amount of debt you owe
  • The name of the creditor
  • The original creditor, in case the debt was sold off at some point

If the caller refuses to give you this information, you’re dealing with a scammer.

Here are a few other things you can do if you get one of these calls:

  • Ask for the name of the collection company calling you.
  • Dispute the debt if you don’t recognize it.
  • Hang up and check with the original creditor (if you know who they are).

If the caller hesitates or stumbles after you ask simple questions, that’s a good sign that they don’t actually know who you are.

If you did make the mistake of paying one of these phony debt collectors, you’re not totally out of options. Try these steps out to protect yourself and your bank account:

Reporting these scams will help prevent any future victims from losing money — and may even lead to the scammers getting caught. The last thing we need these days is any more of these cybercriminals having free reign to terrorize us by phone.

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