A legitimate collection agency is a business that makes a profit by purchasing defaulted consumer accounts from creditors and then pursuing debtors for the unpaid balances. Some individuals, assuming they have forgotten to pay a past debt, will submit a payment to the collection agency without asking any questions. Unfortunately, scam artists sometimes masquerade as debt collectors hoping for just this result. If you have recently been contacted by a collection agency, ensure that the company is valid before you submit a payment to avoid falling victim to a scam.
Pay close attention to the telephone number the supposed collection agency is calling from. If the number is blocked, there is a good chance that you are speaking with a con artist rather than a legitimate collection agency. Collection agencies want you to call back and will not block their numbers.
Request that the collection agency send its request for payment in writing so that you may review it. A con artist will often stop here. Should you receive a bill, call the telephone number listed on the bill to ensure that it is a real number. A collection agency will always provide you with contact information. If no telephone number is listed, there is a good chance you are dealing with a con artist.
Check your credit report. A real collection agency will often insert the collection account onto your credit report--something that a scam artist will be unable to do. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from all three credit bureaus.
Send a request for a validation of the debt and the name of the original creditor to the collection agency. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that a collection agency must provide a full validation of the debt and the name of the original creditor to any consumer who requests one.
Review the validation, should you receive one. Most collection agencies use a software program called e-Oscar to generate debt validations. An e-Oscar validation will contain your name, Social Security number and the amount that you owe. If the validation does not contain this, the collection agency may not be a valid company.
Check the name of the original creditor. If you do not recognize the creditor or know for a fact that you have never had an account with the creditor, you may be dealing with a scam.
Check your state’s collection agency licensing board to see if the company is licensed in your state. Also check the state collection agency licensing board for the state in which the collection agency is supposedly located. If the company is not listed, it is either not a valid company or attempting to collect debt without a license--which is illegal.
There is a statute of limitations for debt collection in every state. If the debt turns out to be valid, you still may not have to pay it. If the statute of limitations on the debt has expired, you are no longer legally obligated to pay.
If the collection agency appears to be legitimate, but you do not remember ever accruing the debt, you may have been a victim of identity theft.
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