How can I verify whether or not a debt collector is legitimate?
Answer: If you suspect a debt collector is not legitimate, ask the caller for their name, company, street address, telephone number, and professional license number. You can also refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice." Do not give personal or financial information to the caller until you have confirmed it is a legitimate debt collector.
Here are a few warning signs that could signal a debt collection scam:
- The debt collector threatens you. Legitimate debt collectors probably won't claim that they'll have you arrested or claim that they or their employees are law enforcement officers.
- The debt collector refuses to give you information about your debt or is trying to collect a debt you do not recognize. You have certain rights to ask a debt collector to verify the debt. You can use this sample letter to request this information. Ask for an explanation in writing before you pay.
- The debt collector refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number.
- The debt collector asks you for sensitive personal financial information. You should never provide anyone with your personal financial information unless you are sure they're legitimate.
If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector:
- Ask the caller for his or her name, company, street address, telephone number, and professional license number. Many states require debt collectors to be licensed. Check the information the caller provides you with your state officials, or the state in which the debt collector holds a license. If the caller refuses or is unable to provide you with information about his company, or if you can’t verify the information he provides, do not give money to the caller or company.
- Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice." This notice must include:
- The amount of the debt
- The name of the creditor you owe
- A description of certain rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
If a caller refuses to give you all of this information, consider requesting this information in writing or seeking assistance before paying the debt to make sure the debt, and the company, are valid.
- Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know the company or person you are talking with is a real debt collector. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft such as:
- Charging your existing credit cards
- Opening new credit card or checking accounts
- Writing fraudulent checks
- Taking out loans in your name
- Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
- Report the call. Submit a complaint with the CFPB or get in touch with your state Attorney General's office with information about suspicious callers.
- Stop speaking with the caller.If nothing else works and you believe the calls are fraudulent, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files.
If you're having trouble with debt collection, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).