Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation

 

Alert - Who's Calling? That Debt Collector Could Be a Fake - Advisory

 

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There have been reports across the country involving consumers receiving telephone calls from people trying to collect on loans the consumers never received or on loans they received but for amounts they do not owe. Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect from them. The FTC recently announced an enforcement action in this area and the Commissioner joins in advising consumers to be on guard.

Consumers need to be on the alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors. These fraudulent debt collectors are employing a variety of tactics in an attempt to commit theft. The fraudsters resort to threatening tactics and use a variety of generic and government-sounding company names.

Maryland law affords consumers protections against fraudulent debt collectors. Consumers should not hesitate to report any instances of debt-related fraud to the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation.

These fraudulent debt collectors threaten consumers with legal action unless they make immediate payment of the debts, fake or otherwise. The callers have basic personal information about the consumers they contact, including their name, address, the last four digits of their Social Security number and bank account information. The callers will also describe themselves as "officers". Some reports indicate that calls come from a variety of area codes, which is sometimes indicative of the calls originating from overseas.

A caller may be a fraudulent debt collector if:

  • The caller is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
  • The caller refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
  • The caller asks you for personal financial or sensitive information; or
  • The caller exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.

If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector:

  • Ask the caller for his or her name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice." The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If a caller refuses to give you all of this information, do not pay! Paying a fake debt collector will not always make them go away. They may make up another debt to try to get more money from you.

  • Stop speaking with the caller. If you have the caller's address, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing.
  • Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know whom you're dealing with. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft - charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name.
  • Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate - but you think the collector may not be - contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.

Report the call. Contact the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation at the below. You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online to file a complaint or or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

For More Information:

Commissioner of Financial Regulation
Attention: Consumer Services Unit
500 North Calvert Street, Suite 402
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

You can also fax to:
Attention: Consumer Services Unit
Fax number: 410-333-3866

Walk in Hours: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Consumer Service Unit Phone Number: 410-230-6077
Main Telephone Number: 410-230-6100 or 888-784-0136