Nobody likes getting debt collection calls. But have you ever gotten one for a debt you already paid — or you know isn’t yours? Or have you been threatened and harassed by a debt collector until you paid up? If so, we want you to know how to protect yourself.
Today, in partnership with federal and state law enforcement partners, the FTC announces Operation Corrupt Collector, a federal-state law enforcement sweep against fake and abusive debt collectors. The operation includes five FTC actions, with two new cases announced today.
Have you gotten a collection call about a debt you don’t recognize? Before you pay:
1. Find out who’s calling. Get the name of the collector, the collection company, its address, and phone number.
2. Get “validation” information about the debt. Within 5 days of first contacting you, debt collectors must “validate” or tell you the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and how to get the name of the original creditor.
3. Don’t respond to threats. When scammers threaten to arrest you, suspend your driver’s license, or call your employer if you don’t pay immediately, hang up and report the collector to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
4. Do your own detective work. Check with the original creditor. Is the debt yours? Did they sell your debt or hire a company to collect it? If so, is the caller the original creditor’s collector?
5. Dispute the debt. If you think you don’t owe some — or all — of the debt, dispute it with the collector by mail or online. Even if you got validation information.
Andrew Therrien wanted payback. He got it—and uncovered a conspiracy. “It begins when someone scoops up troves of personal information that are available cheaply online—old loan applications, long-expired obligations, data from hacked accounts—and reformats it to look like a list of debts. Then they make deals with unscrupulous collectors who will demand repayment of the fictitious bills. Their targets are often poor and likely to already be getting confusing calls about other loans. The harassment usually doesn’t work, but some marks are convinced that because the collectors know so much, the debt must be real.
The problem is as simple as it is intractable. In 2012 a call center in India was busted for making 8 million calls in eight months to collect made-up bills. The Federal Trade Commission has since broken up at least 13 similar scams. In most cases, regulators weren’t able to identify the original perpetrators because the data files had been sold and repackaged so many times. Victims have essentially no recourse to do anything but take the abuse.”
MUSINGS BY DIANE:
Everyone receives calls that are scams. Most of us see it for what it is – fraud. But, the most vulnerable do not. These criminals focus their attacks on our elderly and minorities. Most are afraid to ask others for advice because they are afraid. Afraid of what? The elderly are afraid that their family may take away their freedom to make financial decisions. The minorities are afraid to appear naive. Some are afraid to draw any attention because they are undocumented.
Con artists count on these fears. They don’t care about the consequences of their greed. They don’t care that their victims don’t sleep at night or have health problems directly related to these snakes.
What can you do? Help educate everyone – even those who pretend they know everything (you know who I am talking about :-)). Subscribe to reports from www.Consumer.FTC.gov/blog.
Diane is a well respected Arizona bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney. As a retired law professor, she believes in offering everyone, not just her clients, advice about bankruptcy and Arizona foreclosure laws. Diane is also a mentor to hundreds of Arizona attorneys.
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