John North, Dayton Better Business Bureau president. CONTRIBUTED

How to avoid a debt collection scam

Debt collection scams are one of the most common types of scams. However, scammers are putting new spins on the old classic. For instance, you may receive a call seeking payment on a debt or for a loan you do not recognize or the caller will claim to be collecting on a cash advance. The caller can be threatening, claiming you must pay now to avoid arrest, garnished wages or a lawsuit. He or she will then ask you to pay via prepaid debit card or wire money. Some of these calls may even be automated.

Last year, debt collection scams came in second on the Top Scams Reported to BBB Scam Tracker list. There were 2,456 reported debt collection scams across the U.S., Canada and Mexico on this tool alone.

BBB offers these tips if you think a caller may be a fake debt collector:

Hang up if you know you do not have any outstanding loans.

Ask for a name, company, street address and telephone number. Use this information to confirm the collection agency is real.

Ask for an official validation notice of the debt. In the U.S., it is required by law that debt collection agencies provide this information in writing. The validation notice must contain the amount of debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights. If none of this information is given, hang up.

Do not provide or confirm personal information (bank account, credit card, Social Security card, etc.) until you have verified the call.

Check your credit report. Check to see if you have outstanding debts and make sure there has not been any suspicious activity.

Place a fraud alert on your credit report if the caller seems to have a lot of your personal information.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the caller is threatening. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collections from being abusive, unfair or deceptive.

Contact your creditor. If your debt is real, but you are wary about the caller, contact your creditor and find out if anyone has been authorized to collect the debt.

If you feel you’ve been a victim of a scam, contact your BBB by visiting www.bbb.org or calling (937) 222-5826 or (800) 776-5301. You can also report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

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John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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