News & Resources

Be gone, fake debt collectors

Sep 29, 2013 Philip Burgess

Cybercriminals are most often completely opportunistic in nature, jumping aboard the gravy train whenever a vulnerability arises. For this reason, the digital landscape has become increasingly dangerous, as more hackers continue to flood the Internet and work to steal identities, personal information, finances and more from unsuspecting or under-prepared victims.

Now, fraudulent debt collection operations are beginning to increase alongside cybercrime, with consumers and businesses holding massive levels of debt and not having a strong handle on their own rights. For this reason, several federal and state law enforcement agencies, as well as regulators from across the nation, are starting to increase efforts to educate firms and consumers about the telltale signs of fake debt collectors.

Collection agencies should also try to spread the word about this growing issue, ensuring that their clients understand the general statutes under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

BBB gets angry
InsideARM recently reported that the Chicago and Northern Illinois branches of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) have released several statements following an increase in debt collection scams in the past year. The regulator believes that the scams increased by 18 percent in that time period, while the most common complaints were related to the wrong identities.

According to the news provider, the BBB stated that the common thread of the scams included calls related to debts that were never actually created by the recipient, while the perpetrators are constantly asking for personal information. Some are even asking for more sensitive data, such as financial records and medical information, while certain victims have fallen for the high pressure tactics.

The source added that the scammers are threatening the recipients with legal action if they do not immediately pay the debt or disclose the requested information. All of these types of tactics are accurate signs of a scam, as debt collectors are not permitted to partake in any of these actions. For example, a collector must verify the debt with the business or consumer before communication can really begin.

Additionally, most of the well-respected collection agencies would never ask for a disclosure of personal information over the phone without plenty of discussion related to ID verification.

"If people call pretending to be debt collectors, consumers can be at high risk of identity theft," said Steve Bernas, President of the area's BBB, according to InsideARM. "Consumers have to be cautious with these callers and must never give out personal information with people they do not know."

Don't fall in with the phonies
Debt collection agencies should take the time to review all training protocols and written policies to ensure that the general guidelines employees are following are aligned with the FDCPA. Failure to do so could result in several issues, including businesses and consumers believing the agency is actually a scam.

The BBB, as well as the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are expected to continue this assault on illegal and fraudulent collection efforts. Agencies can avoid issues with reputations and sanctions by maintaining exceptional practices.