COLORADO SPRINGS — While there are many legitimate debt collectors who contact people, there are also fraudsters who may try to get you to pay on debts that you don’t owe or on debts that don’t even exist. That’s what happened to one of our News5 viewers who hopes her experience will help others know what to look for to avoid trouble.
”I got a voicemail that they had tried to serve me through the mail and got it returned and they left me her full name and told me she was from the process servers office,” Kristle told News5.
Concerned about what appeared to be a debt collection call, Kristle called back.
“She was really aggressive. Every time I asked her if she could mail me something or if she had been to the El Paso County courthouse to file papers because she was going to sue me. She had no papers filed here, there was nobody local I could go to to talk about it,” said Kristle.
But it was the information this caller had about her that kept her on the line for more than 45 minutes.
“She told me my social security number and even told me the lines of credit that were open on my credit report that I could pay the debt with. It was weird,” said Kristle.
Ultimately, she says the lack of complete information and the high pressure tactics on the call made her realize she should hang up.
”It wasn’t on my credit report. I was on credit karma while I was on the phone with her looking just to see. It wasn’t there,” Kristle told News5. “She was offering no outs, but pay this right now.”
News5 spoke with Colorado State University Global’s “Dr. Fraud” J. Michael Skiba about this interaction and he says this is a major issue right now that we all need to be aware of.
”Studies show more than 50% of consumers have some level of debt. So you’re naturally going to reach half of the population with that header of debt collection,” said Skiba. ”Don’t let your emotion get involved and do a simple hop out and try to figure out if it’s legitimate and call that specific agency directly.”
He says by gathering our personal information from data breaches and places like the dark web, the fraudsters are attempting to add legitimacy to these calls that often result in some huge financial losses.
”They are going to ask for $22,000, or $10,000, or $6,000, so they are going to get that big chunk of money and the problem with that is usually once that transaction is done within two seconds they’ve scrubbed it and done things with it. You’re never going to get that back,” warned Skiba.
Kristle is relieved to know she managed to get off the phone before losing that kind of money and hopes sharing her experience with News5 will help someone else avoid it too.
”The more information everybody has the better we can avoid getting ripped-off. We all want to keep our money. I keep track of my credit and I know what’s going on in my finances and this still happened,” said Kristle.
So what are the warning signs of a debt collection scam call?
Here are some of the consumer red flags to look for:
You don’t recognize the debt- If the debt collector does not provide all the details about your debt they are required to send you a written notice within five days of that initial contact.
Claim to be an official and threatens jail time
Threatens to share debt information with others
Pressures you to pay right now- Often through payment methods like money transfers that are difficult to trace.
Remember, it’s important to report calls like this to the Federal Trade Commission and to the Colorado Attorney General’s office to help investigators determine trends and what resources are needed to stop fraudsters.
Resources for investigating and reporting fraud:
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