What’s worse than being chased by a debt collector? Being chased by a fake one!

Across the country, people are being called by scammers who claim to be legitimate debt collectors but who are, in reality, anything but. These fraudsters usually do their research beforehand, accessing your personal information by pulling your credit report, hacking into your email, and even stealing surface mail from your mailbox. Then they call, inform you that you owe a debt, and ask for payment.

The more sophisticated scammers will find out what bank or credit card issuers you really do owe money to, and try to make you believe that they are collecting payment on that company’s behalf. If you fall for it, then the money goes into their pocket, and you still owe money to the original creditor.

To help you determine whether the collection agency calling you is real or fake, a list of tips have been posted below.

They demand immediate payment- or else

If the collector demands immediate payment, that’s a red flag. If you refuse, a scammer will usually threaten you with lawsuits, arrest, imprisonment, and anything else they can think of to alarm you into paying. While an unethical but legitimate debt collector may do the same thing, their actions are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and such threats from a real collector are relatively rare.

They only accept certain types of payment

Most legitimate collection agencies accept several forms of payment. They want to make it easier to get paid. A scammer will demand a single form of payment, such as wire transfer or credit card over the phone.

They won’t give you a physical address

The FDCPA requires a bona fide collection agency to provide you with a mailing address if you request it so that you can send a dispute letter or send a cease communications request in writing. If the person on the phone refuses, then that’s another red flag.

The collector answers each call

Most collection agencies have receptionists or phone systems responsible for routing your call to a debt collector. Very rarely does an actual collector answer the “business line.” If you call and get the same collector on the phone each time, then they’re likely using a cell phone, which is the sign of a scammer.

Their “company” can’t be found online

If you do a Google search of the alleged collection agency’s name and come up with zero, then you’re likely dealing with a con artist. Try Googling the caller’s phone number instead. If the scammer has approached others, then you’ll likely find reference to their number on consumer complaint boards.

If you believe that the debt collector who is calling you is not legitimate, then you can and should ignore the calls. If you don’t give them what they want, then scammers will move on to easier prey. Being cautious will prevent you from becoming a victim. Jayson Lutzky is a bankruptcy attorney with more than 34 years of legal experience. He has helped many clients eliminate debts over the years. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often referred to as the “fresh start” bankruptcy because it allows you to keep most–if not all–of your assets while wiping out most–if not all–of your debts. Mr. Lutzky offers free consultations to those interested in learning if bankruptcy is right for them. Call 718-514-6619 to set up an in person appointment or visit mynewyorkcitylawyer.com/map-directions to schedule an appointment with Mr. Lutzky.