Often, the fuming voice on the other end of the line insists that you owe the debt though you don’t recognize the debt or the collector.
So before you feel guilty and promise to pay off the same, consider two probable scenarios:
1) It’s an attempt to scam you out by a con artist
2) Else, it could be a case of tagging, where a collector chases you for someone else’s debt
Nowadays, such scenarios are creating problems for consumers, advocates and regulators. So how to be sure enough that the call you are getting is a genuine one? Well, here are 7 ways to find out…
1) Shift the conversation
Whether it is a real debt or a scam, the caller will ask questions. Reply him/her with counter questions. A legitimate debt collector will obviously answer your questions. Legally, it’s the caller’s obligation to provide you with sufficient details to back his/her claim and you may certainly question about the debt, the collector and the collection agency. However, if you have doubts regarding the debt or the caller’s behavior, don’t give out or confirm any information about you.
2) Receive confirmation
Legally, a debt collector has five days from the first phone call to send you a written confirmation of the debt. As per Joseph H. Marman of Marman Law, most collection agencies send this in advance and also spell out some of your rights as a debtor – disputing the debt, for instance.
3) Verify the collection agency
Plug the name of the company or the phone number into an Internet search engine. Reach out to your state attorney general’s office or the dept. of consumer affairs and try to find out if the collection agency is licensed to collect in your state. Check with the BBB to know if there have been complaints about the firm. Moreover, if the agent claims to be associated with an attorney’s office, check out with the state bar or the office of the court administration.
4) Know if the debt is your
Just because the collection agency is legit doesn’t make the debt yours. Collectors are human beings and are prone to mistakes. However, your credit report can provide you with a quick view of the debts you are currently owing. Since your unsettled debts stay on your report for 7 years, you can pull out your credit report either visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228.
If the debt isn’t listed there, there’s a good chance that it’s a scam, a case of mistaken identity, or a real debt that is past the statute of limitations for collections.
5) Check your state’s statute of limitations (SOL)
If the debt is past the statute of limitations of your state, the collector can’t force you pay the same. Even if the debt is sold to a new collection agency, you are not obliged to pay. It doesn’t matter who owns it, it can’t be listed on your history or even can’t be used to calculate your score. The collection agency can sue you for the debt; however, they would never win.
6) Ask to verify the debt
After you have received a written document claiming you owe the debt, you have 30 days to request the collection agency to verify the same. Until the collection agency verifies the debt, it has to hold all collection attempts. However, try to receive the reply in a post box or in your office in order to protect your identity.
7) Make sure the proof is legit
The response that you receive from the collection agency could take many shapes. If could be a copy of the original credit agreement, a copy of the charge-off statement or an invoice from the original creditor. Or, it could simply be information about the debt – the original creditor’s name, the account number, charge-off amount and current balance. However, in order to strengthen their claim, the collection agency should at least show you the last four digit of your SSN.
However, if they can’t prove it before you, they won’t be able to prove it before the court too.