What to do if a debt collection agency calls

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The North Alabama Better Business Bureau advises consumers not to give in to harassing calls from bogus collection agencies that try to pressure you into paying money you don’t owe. Scammers are more deceptive than ever, and direct debit scams are still active.

Scammers call consumers and inform them that they will be arrested by the local police if they do not immediately pay for a personal loan, which they took out months or even years earlier.

In most cases, residents have not even taken out these loans, but consumers have reported paying hundreds of dollars to avoid the possibility of arrest. Callers are stubborn and break state and federal phone billing laws by calling home, cell, and work numbers around the clock.

Scammers do this to either annoy residents at home or embarrass innocent employees in their workplaces, by pressuring them to pay to stop the harassment or threat of possible job loss.

The best protection against debt collection scams is knowing your rights. The following are some of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:

  • Collection agencies are legally obliged to provide the information in writing. Ask the collection agency for an official “confirmation notice” of the debt. The notification must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights under the Fair Collection Practices Act. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
  • You must respond in writing within thirty days of receipt of the debt notice to avoid further action or contact by the collector. If you have any proof that the debt has been paid, you must also provide it. Your letter and any evidence disputing the debt must: arrive within thirty days at the collector’s place of business. It is always a good idea when disputing a debt to send your letter by registered mail and to require a signature of receipt by the payee.
  • A collection agency must prove that you owe the money geld before they can continue to collect if you dispute the debt in writing within 30 days.
  • A collection agency cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m
  • They cannot harass, oppress or abuse you. No swearing, no repeated phone calls, no threats of violence are allowed.
  • You can’t call a collection agency at work if they know your employer doesn’t approve.
  • They cannot continue to call if you request in writing that they communicate with you only by mail. However, they can still try to collect the debt.
  • They can’t collect debt you don’t owe, neither a disputed debt, nor can they report to the three major credit reporting agencies.

Your BBB provides the following additional tips for receiving direct debit calls:

  • If you think a caller is fake, ask for his or her name, company, address and telephone number. Then do your research and check bbb.org to confirm that the collection agency is genuine.
  • Never give or confirm a bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you verify the call.
  • Check your credit report by visiting yearcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228. This allows you to determine whether you have any outstanding debts or whether suspicious activity has taken place in your name. If a scammer has a lot of personal information about you, be safe and put a fraud warning on your credit report.

Source: BBB.org

To find a company you can trust, go to BBB.org. To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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