With millions of American consumers struggling to stay afloat financially, more people find themselves in debt than in years past. More than ever, consumers find themselves targets of debt collection
agencies eager to get their hands on the money that is owed to them or a company they represent.
Increasingly however, many consumers have run into invasive tactics from collectors who are overly aggressive when trying to collect the overdue bills. In an effort to combat this issue, the Better Business Bureau released formal advice for consumers that aims to give those receiving calls a better chance to figure out when someone is acting on behalf of a legitimate collection agency. The BBB suggests getting the collector's name and contact information so that they can be looked up after he or she contacts the person in the first place. By doing an internet search on sites such as Google or Bing, consumers will be able to find out whether the agency is trying to scam them or if there are any pending lawsuits against them. People can also perform a search on the BBB's official website to find a review of the business. According to Steven A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, there are many signs that people can look for when determining when a debt collector is on the level and when they he or she is trying to collect money that they are not owed. "Consumers need to know the red flags for fraudulent debt collectors," said Cox. "If the collector refuses to reveal the name of their agency or demands that the payments be made in cash or money transfer only, consumers need to report this immediately." There is also a risk that fraudulent debt collectors could be trying to steal a person's identity. The BBB suggests asking the person for documentation of the debt before giving any more information to see how legitimate the claim is. If a consumer feels that they have been a target of a scam, they are encouraged to report the incident on the BBB's official website or with the Federal Trade Commission. Debt collectors must adhere to the FTC's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which makes it against the law to make deceptive claims, make idle threats, use profane language, or discuss an account with third parties, along with other provisions.