Fake and Abusive Debt Collectors

Have you ever gotten a call about a debt you don’t recognize? Or have you had a collector harass, threaten, or lie to you? If you owe a debt — or if you don’t owe the debt a collector is asking about — you have rights when it comes to debt collectors. Here’s what you need to know.

  • How to Spot Fake Debt Collectors
  • How to Know If a Debt Is Yours
  • How to Spot an Abusive Debt Collector
  • Report Fake and Abusive Debt Collectors

How to Spot Fake Debt Collectors 

Not everyone who calls saying that you owe a debt is a real debt collector. Some are scammers who are just trying to take your money. So how can you tell?

A caller may be a fake debt collector if they

  • want you to repay a debt you don’t recognize
  • refuse to give you their mailing address or phone number
  • pressure you, or try to scare you into paying by threatening to report you to law enforcement or have you arrested

How to Know If a Debt Is Yours

Did someone contact you about a debt that you don’t recognize? The best way to confirm it’s yours is to get “validation information.” By law, debt collectors have to give you information — either over the phone or in writing — that includes

  • the amount of the debt
  • the name of the current creditor
  • how to get the name of the original creditor

Here are a few more things to do if you get a call about a debt you don’t recognize. 

  1. Find out who’s calling. Get the name of the collector and the collection company, its address, and phone number.
  2. Do your own detective work. Check with the original creditor. Is the debt yours? Did the creditor sell the debt or hire a company to collect it? If so, is the caller their collector?
  3. Dispute the debt. If you think you don’t owe some — or all — of the debt, dispute it with the collector by mail or online. Even if you got validation information.

As you’re checking out a debt collection call, remember: don’t respond to threats.When scammers threaten to arrest you, suspend your driver’s license, or call your employer if you don’t pay immediately, hang up and report the collector to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Learn more about dealing with debt collection at ftc.gov/debt.

Don't recognize that debt? Infographic

How to Spot an Abusive Debt Collector 

What if you recognize the debt, but you think the debt collector is harassing or lying to you? Or treating you unfairly? Here are some things to know:

Collectors can’t harass you. For example, collectors

  • can’t threaten to hurt you
  • may not use obscene or profane language
  • can’t repeatedly call you

Collectors can’t lie. For example, collectors

  • cannot tell you that you owe a different amount than what you actually owe
  • may not pretend to be an attorney or from the government
  • can’t tell you that you’ll be arrested, or claim they’ll take legal action against you if it’s not true

Collectors can’t treat you unfairly. For example, collectors

  • may not try to collect interest, fees, or other charges on top of the amount you owe, unless the original contract or your state law says they can
  • can’t deposit a post-dated check early
  • cannot publicly share your debts, including by sending postcards or putting information on envelopes
Debt Collection: Know Your Rights Video

Report Fake and Abusive Debt Collectors 

Have you spotted a fake or abusive debt collector? The FTC wants to know about it. Report it at ftc.gov/complaint.

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