That venerable national gazette, The Topeka Capital-Journal has warned consumers to watch out for phony debt collectors targeting people who owe NO credit card debt.
What does this mean to the California consumer ? Simple: Whether or not you have outstanding credit card debt, insofar as debt collection telephone scams are concerned, you are definitely still in Kansas.
The article reports that a federal court has ordered five individual defendants and their companies to stop making threatening or misleading collection calls to consumers, and telling them, for example: ” If you don’t pay this debt, your bank accounts will be closed, your wages will be garnished, and you will face felony fraud charges, and be arrested.” This stuff is way past legal. However, even though the consumers owed no debt, some though obviously ponied up. Or the calls would stop. Wouldn’t they?
The Better Business Bureau even weighed in on the subject: “Similar scams have shown up with variations for some time. People attempting to extort money will often use official-sounding names like “Civil Investigations Unit,” “State Sheriff’s Office,” or “Federal Crime Enforcement Network,” and may use fake case numbers or the names of law firms in an attempt to scare people into paying.”
So, what should you do when a scammer comes calling? Here are suggestions:
• Ask for a “validation notice” of the specific debt. By law, they must give you a written account of the debt amount, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights as specified by the Fair Debt Collections [Practices] Act. They must do this within five days of when they first contact you. If they don’t agree to do so, hang up.
• Confirm that the debt collector isn’t a fake by asking for his/her name, company, physical street address and telephone number. If they won’t give all of this information, hang up. If they do, check the information and confirm that it isn’t phony.
• Go to annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228 and check your credit report for outstanding debts or suspicious activity that you didn’t authorize.
• Never – repeat NEVER – pay any money to someone you don’t know. NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY!
• Report any threats to the police and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at their website www.ftc.gov. This BTW applies to “legitimate”debt collectors as well.
• Take notes of every debt collection call, including the date, time, name of the caller, name of the company, and what is said. Then salt your notes away for possible future use.
Finally, if you are able to get the caller’s mailing address – for a scammer that’s a big “if” – you can send them a “cease and desist” letter instructing them to “cease and desist” all further telephone contact with you. Send this letter via certified mail, at a minimum, to prove delivery. Any further telephone contact over a consumer debt violates the U. S. and the California Fair Debt Collection Practices Acts.
If you receive calls beyond that point or if you have any questions about this post, feel free to call me toll-free at 877-551-0210.