As the economy slows and household budgets tighten, debt collectors are calling consumers more than ever. Unfortunately, not all these debt collection calls may be real. Fake debt collectors are out there as well – and they’re trying to get you to hand over money you don’t owe.
Fake debt collectors use a variety of sneaky tactics to make themselves look like the real thing. For instance, they may call about past due bills you actually owe – only they won’t pass on the money you pay to the actual creditor. They may also invent a fake bill, hoping that you’re too confused by your real debt to spot the fake. Fraudulent collection agencies have also started buying consumer credit information to use in convincing you they’re a genuine debt collection agency. Some may even steal your mail. If you pay a false debt collection agency, you lose your money – and your real debt still exists.
Since anyone can lose track of an unpaid bill, especially when money is tight, how do you spot fake debt collectors? Many fake collection agencies send up warning signals. For instance, if you receive a phone call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. from someone who claims to be a collection agency, the call is probably a fake. Even if it isn’t, it’s harassment: according to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, collection agencies aren’t allowed to call during the nighttime hours. The clearest signal that you are dealing with a fake debt collector is their refusal to identify themselves by company name and phone number. Moreover, every debt collector on a consumer debt is required to send you a validation notice within 5 days of contacting you. If you do not receive any such notice, then you are probably dealing with a fake debt collector.
Also, a debt collector who asks you to make out a check to an individual is likely to be a fake. Some creditors sell their debts to small law firms or debt collection agencies, who then try to recover as much money as possible. Therefore, if you’re asked to make out a check to a law firm or small business, the debt collection may be legitimate – but if you’re asked to make out the check to an individual person, be suspicious.
Finally, a debt collector who threatens or harasses you about your debt is breaking the law, whether the collection agency is real or fake. Debt collector rules prohibit collection agencies from harassing you – they cannot use profanity or threaten you with police action, for example. Stop collection agency harassment by reporting such debt collectors to your state’s Attorney General’s office.
So what should you do when you’re facing fraudulent or unfair debt collection? First, remain calm. Tell the creditor or debt collector that you need time to look into the debt. Then, seek help with your credit card debt or other debts from an experienced debt settlement attorney.

If you have been victimized by a debt collector or have items on your credit report that are incorrect, call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin for a free consultation at (888) 293-2882. For more information about your credit rights as a consumer, visit our blog at Visit our website at