If you have overdue bills, you may be contacted by a collection agent. But make no mistake: scammers often pose as debt collectors to try to convince people they owe unpaid debts or to try to scare or threaten people into collecting a non-existent debt. Being contacted by a legitimate debt collector can be stressful in itself – be sure to look for these signs to help you spot the scammers.
If you’ve been contacted by someone about a debt they claim they owe, do some research to make sure the debt and the collector are real. Get the caller’s name, collection company name, address, and phone number. You can verify that this company is licensed by contacting the North Carolina Secretary of State and the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
You should also confirm the information debt collectors are legally required to provide to you:
• amount of debt
• the name of the current creditor
• how to obtain the name of the original creditor
• how to dispute the debt if you think it is not correct.
A telltale sign of a scammer is the use of threatening or aggressive language. Remember that debt collectors cannot use inappropriate language, call you over and over again, or threaten to arrest you or take other action, such as suspending your driver’s license, reporting you to immigration authorities or call your employer. If you are threatened, the debt collector is either a scammer or breaking the law. Hang up and report the call to the NCDOJ Consumer Protection Division (1-877-5-NO-SCAM) and the FTC (ftc.gov/complaint).
Do not give out personal information such as your address, social security number, or date of birth to anyone who calls you, including someone claiming to be a debt collector. Real debt collectors already have this information.
Previously, debt collectors could only call you or send you a letter. Now they can also contact you via text, email and social media. But if they contact you on social networks, they must follow certain rules. They can’t send you a message that others can see, they must identify themselves as a debt collector, and they must tell you how you can unsubscribe from social media communications.
If you have questions about debt collectors, you can learn more at ftc.gov/debtcollection or at https://ncdoj.gov/protecting-consumers/credit-and-debt/debt-collectors/. If you have a complaint or are unsure of a debt collector, call us at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/.
Josh Stein is the Attorney General of North Carolina.