Phone Debt Collectors: 5 Ways to Stop Aggressive & Fake Debt Collectors

Katie Mar 09

If a debt collector called and said you needed to pay a past-due bill immediately - or else face a lawsuit or arrest - you'd pay up.Overdue bills


Don't. Before you make any payments, make sure the caller is legitimate - and not a scammer.

Fake debt collectors use aggressive scare tactics to con American consumers and businesses owners out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And their efforts are on the rise, with federal statistics identifying Debt Collector Scams as the second most complained-about problem reported by consumers.

Frighteningly, they're not alone in harassing and threatening consumers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports some legitimate collection agencies are taking up the same illegal tactics to get you to pay your bill, or con you into paying more than owed.

But whether real or fake, don't let debt collectors scare you. Know your rights - and how to spot the law breakers.

Five Ways to Protect Yourself From Debt Collection Phone Scams

If you're receiving non-stop calls from an aggressive debt collector, take the following steps to protect yourself.

1. Verify the caller's identity.

While some fraudsters use a fake company name, others use caller ID spoofing to pose as a real collection agency.

So ask the caller's name, company, address and telephone number upfront. And use that information to investigate their legitimacy online, including the FTC's list of banned collection companies and individuals and CallerSmart's yellow pages phone directory app.

2. Request a written notice.

Request written proof of your obligation - and refuse to discuss your debt further until you've received it. Legitimate debt collectors are required to provide you with a written notice within five days of first contacting you, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The notice should include the name of the creditor, amount owed and your right to dispute the debt.

3. Keep your personal information private.

Don't give or confirm sensitive information like your Social Security, banking or credit card numbers. Scammers could use this information to commit identity theft and steal the money they're seeking.

4. Resist pressure tactics.

While both scammers and legitimate collectors will push for prompt payment, note that it's illegal for either to threaten, harass or intimidate you into doing so. This includes threats of immediate lawsuits or arrest, tell-tale signs of a debt scam.

Per the FDCPA, you can stop pressuring calls from real agencies by mailing them a formal request to cease communication. And are entitled to take legal action if not respected.

5. Go to the source.

Once off the call, find the service number for the creditor of your supposed debt, online or on your loan paperwork. Then call back directly to verify the debt is legitimate, and if so, that the collector in question is operating on their behalf.

What to Do If You Think You're Being Scammed

If you've been contacted by a fake debt collector, or a legitimate collection agency breaking the FDCPA with harassing tactics, report the incident immediately to the FTC and your state's Attorney General.

To protect others from falling for these illegal tactics you can trace unknown callers on your iPhone and leave your feedback on the number with CallerSmart's app. If you don't have an iPhone, you can still run a reverse phone number lookup on our website and leave your feedback to help others.