From the FTC:
Who’s Calling? That Debt Collector Could Be a Fake
Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect on loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive but for amounts they do not owe. Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect for them. So what’s the story?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, is warning consumers to be on the alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors. It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one. Sometimes a fake collector may even have some of your personal information, like a bank account number. A caller may be a fake debt collector if he:
is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
asks you for personal financial or sensitive information; or
exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.
If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector:
Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
If a caller refuses to give you all of this information, do not pay! Paying a fake debt collector will not always make them go away. They may make up another debt to try to get more money from you.
Stop speaking with the caller. If you have the caller’s address, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing.
Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know whom you’re dealing with. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft – charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name.
Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
Report the call. Contact the FTC and your state Attorney General’s office with information about suspicious callers. Many states have their own debt collection laws in addition to the federal FDCPA. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.
For More Information
The FTC has several publications and videos about dealing with debt at www.ftc.gov/credit, including:
Visit ftc.gov/moneymatters for short and practical tips, videos, and links to reliable sources of information on debt collection, credit repair, job-hunting and job scams, vehicle repossession, managing mortgage payments, and foreclosure rescue scams.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report summarizing the results of a survey of identity theft victims who were asked to describe their experiences dealing with consumer reporting agencies and, more generally, exercising their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as amended by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), to recover from identity theft. The survey showed that most of the respondents were generally satisfied with their experiences, but the report also noted areas for improvement.
Congress has established several rights under the FACTA to help actual or potential identity theft victims protect themselves from, and recover from, identity theft. These rights enable victims to place fraud alerts on their credit report with the consumer reporting agencies, request a free credit report from the three national consumer reporting agencies when placing a fraud alert, block fraudulent information from appearing in their credit report, and receive a notice of these and other rights from the consumer reporting agencies.
According to the report, Using FACTA Remedies: An FTC Staff Report on a Survey of Experience of Identity Theft Victims, the survey showed:
Sixty-eight percent of the survey respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experiences with the consumer reporting agencies, but many consumers said it was difficult to reach a live person.
Less than half of the respondents were aware of most of their rights under FACTA before they contacted the consumer reporting agencies.
Some respondents complained about feeling pressured to buy additional identity theft monitoring products when they called the consumer reporting agencies.
The report concluded that:
The consumer reporting agencies may need to make it easier for consumers to reach a live person;
The FTC and other enforcement agencies should do more to educate the public about their rights under FACTA; and
The FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should use their respective authorities to address the consumer reporting agencies’ practices related to selling identity theft monitoring products or services when they are contacted by identity theft victims.
Consumer education continues to be an important priority for the FTC, which has an extensive program to provide consumers with the knowledge and tools needed to protect themselves from identity theft and to deal with its consequences. For example, the FTC receives thousands of contacts each week through its toll-free hotline and dedicated website. Callers to the hotline receive counseling from trained personnel on steps they can take to prevent or recover from the crime. The FTC also provides a variety of educational materials to help consumers deter, detect, and defend against identity theft. For example, the FTC’s identity theft victim recovery guide, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, explains the immediate steps victims should take to address the crime, how to obtain a credit report and correct fraudulent information in credit reports, how to file a police report, and how to protect personal information.
From FTC Post 3/12/12
The Federal Trade Commission and more than 30 other federal agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations, in conjunction with state, county, and local government agencies, are participating in National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10, 2012. National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign to focus attention on the importance of consumer information and provide people with free resources explaining their rights in the marketplace.
David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, noted the campaign’s website, NCPW.gov, available in English and Spanish, hosts a variety of resources on topics that matter to the nation’s consumers.
“The information on NCPW.gov can help consumers understand their rights, protect their privacy online and off, manage credit and debt, avoid identity theft, recognize foreclosure rescue scams, and report fraud,” Vladeck said. “Visitors can download and print materials to share with friends and neighbors, or use the toolkit to plan a larger community event.”
To get materials and view a list of agencies participating in the 14th annual celebration of consumer protection and consumer education, visit the NCPW About Us page.
From FTC post 3/2/12