Should I share personal information with a debt collector?
Debt collectors may ask questions to verify your identity, but you should never provide sensitive or financial information, at least not until you’ve verified the debt and that it’s not a scam.
If you’re contacted by a debt collector, they may usually ask you for certain information to ensure they’re talking with the right person before they can start asking about the debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) generally limits who debt collectors can speak to about your debt, so they may ask questions to ensure they’re talking to the right person.
How to validate a debt collector’s legitimacy
Debt collectors are required to provide you with certain information when or soon after they first communicate with you, in a format usually called a debt collection validation notice. Usually provided electronically or in writing, the notice is meant to help you understand whether the debt is yours, and if not, how you can dispute it.
In addition, if you are speaking to the debt collector on the phone, you can also ask them to provide:
- Their name
- Company name
- Company street address
- Telephone number
- Professional license number, if your state licenses debt collectors and requires disclosure of this number
Personal information legitimate debt collectors may request
The debt collector may ask you for personal information to verify your identity. This may include:
- Your full name
- Date of birth
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
- Past and/or current address
If you choose not to verify your identity by providing information, like your Social Security number, the debt collector will generally ask you for another form of identification, including:
- Account number for the debt in question, if you know it
- Other contact information, such as your current or previous address
- Your phone number
- One or more of your most recent transactions with amounts and dates
Again, it is your choice whether or not to provide the information requested.
How to keep your personal information safe
Don’t provide personal or sensitive financial information
Never give out or confirm personal or sensitive financial information – such as your bank account, credit card, or full Social Security number – unless you know the company or person you are talking with is a real debt collector.
If the debt collector is a scam, they could use this information to:
- Charge your existing credit cards
- Open new credit card or checking accounts
- Write fraudulent checks
- Take 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 a debt collector, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB.