Lately, we at KCLS have been getting a lot of calls about debt collection scams. One of the more popular lies that debt collectors tell is that you can go to jail for not paying this debt or that debt. That some how your failure to pay this (possibly time barred, and maybe not even yours) debt is bank fraud. But lets talk about the other signs that a debt collector is a scam.
1-If they call and tell you that you can be arrested, they are probably a scammer. There are very few debts that you can go to jail for, and most of those, they don’t send a collector for the money. If you have committed the crimes of embezzlement, or theft, or fraud, they don’t call you. Think about it. Did they call up Bernie Madoff and ask him to pay? No. The SEC and the FBI just stopped in one day, and put him in irons.
2-If they call and tell you they are the police and that you will be arrested, they are almost guaranteed to be a scammer. Just think about this. Do the police call people before they show up to bust through the door with a warrant, throw you on the ground, and arrest you? No. That would be stupid of the police.
2A-this is not really a separate category, but a subtype- If they tell you they are a process server, and that you will be served shortly (typically that day or the next day), they are a scammer. This is a variation of the “I’m with the police” scam. Real process servers don’t call in advance. They also don’t ask where you work, and they don’t tell you what time they will be there.
3-If the debt collector will not give you an address for payments or for correspondence, they are a scammer. Tell them that you will not pay over the phone, that you will only pay, if at all, by mail.
4-If the debt collector won’t tell you a valid phone number, they are a scammer. Tell them that before you will discuss the debt with them, you need to call them back, Promise them that if you can reach them, you will discuss the payment of the debt, but if you cannot, then you will assume they are a scammer.
5-If the collector only calls, but never sends you anything in writing, they are most likely a scammer. Real debt collectors know that they must send a collection letter, called a 30 day validation notice. This gives you 30 days to dispute the debt. Scammers know that if they don’t send you a letter, it is harder for you to track them down to sue them.
6-If they communicate with you by e-mail, particularly if the first communication from them is by e-mail, they are probably a scammer. Not always true, but most debt collectors do not communicate by e-mail. Also, look for the domain that they are e-mailing from. The domain is the part after the @, like gmail.com, yahoo.com, etc. If the domain is a public “free e-mail service” domain, like gmail, yahoo. Hotmail, AOL, or MSN, they are most likely to be a scammer. Real collectors have their own domains.
7- If they tell you the debt cannot be discharged in a Bankruptcy they are a scammer. The debts that cannot be discharged in a Bankruptcy are very limited in nature. Taxes, child support, and a number of special debts that apply mostly to corporations are not dischargeable. Almost everything else can be discharged. Read more about Chapter 7 non-dischargeable debts and Chapter 13 non-dischargeable debts. Student loans are VERY hard to discharge, but they can be.
If a debt collector is telling you these things, call them out on it. Tell them you think they are a scammer. Then give us a call, and let us see if we can track them down. Most are very hard to find, and they count on that, but we have been successful at finding some of them.
If you have been abused by a debt collector, please call us, and let us see if we can help you.
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Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd.
Richmond, VA 23230