How to Tell the Difference Between a Legitimate Debt Collector and Scammers

By on December 3, 2018

Dealing with debt collection issues can be challenging—especially when you’re not sure if the person you’re being ed by is legitimate or trying to scam you.

When an account like a credit card, auto loan, or cell phone bill becomes past due, the original creditor may attempt to collect the amount owed. The creditor may also hire a debt collector or sell the debt to someone who may try to collect the debt. While there are many legitimate debt collectors in the financial marketplace, there are also scammers who may try to get you to pay on debts that you don’t owe or on debts that don’t even exist.

Warning signs of debt collection scams

Withholds information from you

A debt collector must tell you information such as the name of the creditor, the amount owed, and that if you dispute the debt the debt collector will have to obtain verification of the debt. If the debt collector does not provide this information during the initial with you, they are required to send you a written notice.

Pressures you to pay by money transfer or prepaid card

Scammers like these payment methods because they may be untraceable, and it can be hard for you to get your money back.

Falsely threatens you with jail time or poses as a government official

But beware, if the debt comes from the criminal justice system, it is possible that failure to pay may result in your arrest.

Says they will tell your family, friends, and employer 

Some scammers may try to get you to pay by threatening to reveal your debts to family, friends, coworkers, or employers. A debt collector is  about your debt without your permission. They can only ask others about your whereabouts to try and you.

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You don’t recognize the debt that the person claims you owe money for

Ask questions to make sure the debt is one that you owe.

Asks you for sensitive personal financial information

Such as your bank account, routing numbers, or Social Security numbers. You should never provide anyone with your personal financial information unless you are sure they’re legitimate. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft.

Calls you at inconvenient times

Debt collectors cannot call you at an unusual time or place or at a time or place they know is inconvenient to you. You might be dealing with a scammer if you are called before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.  

Learn how to protect yourself

Ask for a callback number

If you’re uncomfortable providing any information, you can request the caller’s name, company name, street address, and a callback number. You can use this information to verify that they are not a scammer before providing any personal information. Also, if you call back and the business doesn’t answer as the name they provided to you or it’s a nonfunctioning number, it could be a scam.

Make sure you have been given information about the debt before you pay

Make sure you have been given information or have received the written notice with information about the debt before you pay anything.

Contact your original creditor

If you suspect you are dealing with a scammer, the creditor the debt collector claims to be working for and find out who has been assigned to collect the debt.

Check your credit report for the account in question

You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting companies. To get your free credit report authorized by law, go to or call (877) 322-8228. Keep in mind that not all debt collectors and creditors provide information to the credit reporting companies. If the debt is not on your credit report, that does not necessarily mean the debt is not valid.

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Understand your rights

prohibits debt collectors from engaging in a variety of practices, such as misrepresenting the debt, falsely claiming to be a lawyer, or using obscene or profane language when trying to collect a debt.

Submit a complaint

If you have received a suspicious call or think you’ve been the victim of a debt collection scam, you can submit a complaint with the  or you can your state .

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