One of the most unfortunate problems that people face with debt collectors today is the emergence of a scam artists posing as debt collectors. Frequently, these scammers will have detailed personal information about their victims, leading the victim to believe that they are dealing with a real debt collector and a real debt. But this is simply not the case: the debts are fake, and the debt collectors are as well.
Below are some major red flags that will alert you that you’re dealing with the Fake Debt Collector Scam.
Lots of people complain online about them
The first thing that you will want to do if you suspect that you’re dealing with a fake debt collector is research them on Google. Though the name of the fake debt collector will frequently change, one key word will remain the same so that the scammers do not have to change their scripts. For example, “Global Collections, Inc.” could change into “Global Receivables, LLC” but “Global” will always remain in the name of the fake collector. See what other people are saying: if it is a fake debt collector, that will frequently show immediately in the comments.
Their physical location is fuzzy or non-existent
Because the company is a scam, they have no fixed address to mail a payment to. Often, the scam is going to end with a request for some alternate form of payment, that is to say, anything other than a check mailed to an actual fixed address. A legitimate, reputable debt collector will always have a fixed address. If the debt collector that has contacted you cannot provide one, you are dealing with a scammer.
The details surrounding the alleged debt are hazy
In an era of diminishing personal privacy, scam/fake debt collectors often have unique personal information about their victims. However, the information concerning the alleged debts is either made-up or non-existent. At a bare minimum, a legitimate debt collector will be able to provide an account name and an account number upon request, in addition to the current balance. But a scam/fake debt collector who has made up a debt will have to make up this information as well. If the information is not forthcoming or does not match up with a real debt, you’re dealing with a scammer.
They make outlandish threats
A reputable debt collector typically does not make outlandish threats because doing so is unprofessional and could subject the collector to liability under the FDCPA. But the typical scam operation faces no such exposure because they have no assets that could be threatened by a FDCPA judgment, and, for that matter, often do not even operate in the United States to begin with. So, they are free to make outlandish threats, and frequently do. Any mention of “process servers” serving documents is a sure red-flag of a scam, because no reputable debt collector would ratchet up the tension this way. Likewise, any threat of criminal prosecution in connection with a civil debt is a blatant FDCPA violation and also a sure red-flag that you are probably dealing with a scam/fake debt collector.
You never got a letter from them
Perhaps most importantly, a reputable debt collector will always announce their arrival with the required letter containing information about the debt and how to dispute it. The letter will contain information about the issues discussed above, in particular, the nature of the debt and the contact information of the debt collector. But a fake debt collector scam that relies on escalating levels of threats and coercion has little place for a statutorily-required letter, and if the debt collector does not operate in the United States, they may not even be able to send one in the first place. The absence of written communication, particularly for debts owed to entities such as the IRS which communicate only in writing, is a sure sign that a debt collector is not real.
It is truly unfortunate that the FDCPA, which functions so well in other contexts, can’t help to prevent the Fake Debt Collector Scam. That said, if you’re unsure about whether you’re dealing with a real debt collector or not, feel free to contact The Jake A. Walton Law Firm. We’re focused on helping people deal with debt collection harassment, and would be happy to speak with you.