BBB serving New Mexico & Southwest Colorado was founded in 1941. For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brand and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.
Fake Debt Collectors
Consumers who owe money or are behind on their bills may be legitimately contacted by debt collectors to pay off debts. Better Business Bureau serving New Mexico and Southwest Colorado warns consumers, however, that phony debt collectors are lurking in New Mexico.
Debt collectors seek to reclaim funds on past-due accounts on behalf of creditors, businesses or individuals. But, sometimes the “debt collector” calling turns out to be an identity thief who is trying to get you to divulge personal or financial information, such as your Social Security, bank and credit card numbers. Oftentimes, scammers will impersonate legitimate debt collectors to illegitimately obtain financial information. These fraudulent calls can be harassing and threatening.
It’s important for consumers to verify the alleged debt before taking action. BBB recommends doing the following:
Request written proof. By law, a debt collection agency must provide a validation notice within five days of contacting you about the debt. Within 30 days of receiving their validation notice, send the debt collector a written request to further verify the debt details. Do not provide personal or financial information unless the validity of the debt and the debt collector has been confirmed.
Verify the legitimacy. Get the debt collector’s name and contact information to research the agency further. Search on the Internet to see if they have a website or a BBB Business Review at bbb.org. Cross-check contact information and call them using a phone number from a public or online directory. Verify that the representative who called is affiliated with the agency.
If you do not owe the alleged debt, BBB recommends doing the following:
Don’t ignore the collector. It is best to respond immediately, even if you don’t believe the debt is yours. Otherwise, the collector may continue contacting you or file a judgment.
Don’t pay. Do not claim a debt that isn’t yours or make a payment on a bill just to make the collector “go away.” Even just one payment can indicate that you are accepting full responsibility of the debt.
Contest errors. If no debt is confirmed, contact any involved parties to clear up inaccuracies on your credit report, such as: the debt collector; the creditor or company claiming unresolved accounts; and the three credit bureaus. Write a detailed letter and include supporting documents to prove your case. The Federal Trade Commission provides additional resources for reporting errors. Visit them at ftc.gov.
Check for identity theft. If contacted by a collection agency regarding erroneous bills or debts, it could be an indication of identity theft; an imposter may be using your identity to make purchases, open accounts and obtain credit. Review your credit report to quickly identify fraudulent activity or make corrections; visit www.annualcreditreport.com for a free yearly credit report.