Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned Ohioans to beware of phony calls claiming consumers owe money. The office received more than 2,400 collections complaints in 2013, and hundreds of those complaints involved potential scams.
Consumers who are taken advantage of by debt collection scams often report losing $200 to $300, though some lose thousands.
“It can be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a con artist, because some con artists are very convincing,” Attorney General DeWine said. “It’s also tempting to want to pay right away to avoid problems, but it’s important to get verification of the debt. Paying a scammer won’t solve any problems.”
A typical debt collection scam begins with a phone call from someone who says the consumer is in default on a loan. (Consumers who have applied for payday loans online may be especially at risk.) The caller threatens to have the consumer arrested or thrown in jail unless the consumer pays immediately, often via wire transfer or prepaid money card. Ultimately, the caller is not a legitimate debt collector and any money the consumer sends will be lost.
Signs of a debt collection scam include:
• Refusal to provide documentation of the debt
• Requests for immediate payment
• Requests for payment via prepaid money card or wire transfer
• Threats of arrest or jail time
• Callers who say criminal charges will be filed unless payment is provided immediately
• Requests for a consumer’s Social Security number or other personal information
• Use of vulgar language
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, third-party debt collectors must send a letter within five days after first contacting the consumer by phone. The letter must include the amount of money owed, the lender the debt is owed to, and the amount of time the consumer has to dispute the debt. Consumers also have the right to request validation of a debt by sending the collector a letter.
Third-party debt collectors also cannot contact consumers without identifying themselves, tell others about the debt, or contact consumers at work if they or their employer disapproves.