Saturday, November 30, 2013

Debt Collection Scams Prevalent, According to Chicago Better Business Bureau

A recent press release from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported that current records show an increase in fake debt collection scams in Illinois and across the country.  In September of last year, for example, consumers filed a total of 782 complaints.  But this past September, that number rose to 926 complaints.  That might not seem like a significant rise in complaints, but it’s actually an 18 percent increase from just a year prior.  And according to the BBB, it’s not always easy to tell whether you’re dealing with a legitimate debt collector or a scammer, as fake debt collection scams “can vary.”  The most important thing to keep in mind is that, as a consumer, you’re protected against abusive or aggressive debt collection schemes.
If you believe you have been targeted by a fake debt collection scam, it’s important to speak to an experienced Illinois consumer protection lawyer.  At the Emerson Law Firm, we regularly handle cases that concern consumer rights and protection.  Contact us today if you think you have been victimized by fake or unfair debt collection practices.
How Can I Distinguish Between a Fake and Legitimate Debt Collector?
For many consumers, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collection agency and a scam phone call, particularly when consumers who know they have significant debt are targeted.  The BBB offers some tips for distinguishing between a scammer and a legitimate debt collector.  In general, you may be dealing with a fake debt collection scam if:
·      You receive a phone call that says you owe money on a debt you don’t believe you have.  Don’t recognize the debt in question?  You could be talking to a scammer.
·      The call won’t provide you with his or her contact information.  Always ask the alleged debt collector on the phone if you can have his or her professional contact information.  If they refuse to provide it, it might not be an honest debt collection.
·      The caller wants to get specific financial or personal information from you.  Has the caller asked you for information about your bank accounts or for sensitive personal information?  Has the caller pressured you to give this information even when you’ve backed away?
·      The caller tries to scare you by threatening you with legal action if you don’t provide immediate payment.
According to Steve J. Bernas, the president & CEO of the Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau, “if people call pretending to be debt collectors, consumers can be at high risk of identity theft.”  It’s important to be cautious, and if you believe you’ve been scammed, it’s essential to contact a consumer protection attorney.
What Should You Do if You’re Targeted By a Debt Collection Scam?
In general, it’s most important to know your rights.  A BBB article from mid-November emphasized that these fake debt collectors are known to threaten victims with serious lawsuits and even arrests.  For example, the scammers might tell you that you’ll be sued and later arrested if you don’t remit payment immediately.  What should you do?  When you’re on the phone with the alleged debt collector, here are some important “Dos” and Don’ts”:
·      Do ask for a “validation notice.”  Debt collectors must provide you with an official “validation notice” concerning your debt, and they have to do it in writing.  Don’t speak to any debt collector who won’t provide this.
·      Do ask for the alleged debt collector’s professional contact information.  If they won’t provide this information, get off the phone.  If they do provide the information, make sure it’s accurate.
·      Do check your credit report for any debts or suspicious activity suggesting identity theft.
·      Do set a fraud alert on your accounts and credit report.
·      Do consider filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you’ve been subject to aggressive or threatening behavior.  Remember, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from this type of behavior.
·      Don’t provide any personal information, such as your social security number, credit card numbers, or bank account numbers.
·      Do contact a consumer protection lawyer if you believe you’ve been targeted by abusive, unfair, or deceptive debt collection practices.
At the Emerson Law Firm, we know how upsetting it can be to receive an aggressive call from a debt collector.  Our Illinois consumer attorneys can discuss your claim with you today.
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