HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Someone calls you and says they are from a debt collection agency and demands payment for a past debt. You must pay today, or you may be arrested.
- Provide a credit card number and approve the amount requested?
- Wire them the money?
- Load the amount you owe onto a GreenDot MoneyPak card?
The answer is none of the above.
Maintaining good credit is one of the most important things you can do. Failing to do so can result in higher interest rates on homes, cars, credit cards or being denied credit altogether.
Most consumers will go to great lengths to protect their credit rating and make sure it is free of blemishes that can affect creditworthiness. That's why when someone calls claiming you owe a debt, many people would be moved to pay it, to avoid such a blemish from showing up.
That's what scammers are banking on. "They are using extreme measures, saying someone will come arrest them if they don't make payment on that loan," said Michele Mason with the Better Business Bureau.
Mason said the caller generally tries to instill a sense of urgency that the debt needs to be satisfied immediately. They may ask you to wire the money, put it on a prepaid card, or ask for your credit card information. They can be crafty: the scammers can make it appear they are calling from a legitimate collection agency.
"With call spoofing, now they can put in the name of a collection agency that may be legitimate and make it look like they are a true firm and they could be calling from anywhere," she said.
What if you don't recognize the charge? If it just doesn't seem familiar, it could be because you never made the transaction.
"We want to make sure people know that if you get a call claiming you owe a debt when you know you don't, don't feel pressure to fall for that. Many times they will claim they will negotiate with you and knock something down," Mason advised.
Mason suggests that you ask for written verification of the debt so you can see who they claim the debt is owed to. You can then call the company listed and verify an outstanding debt.
You should also check your credit report to make sure no accounts have been opened in your name without your knowledge.
Remember, you can refuse to pay any money until you receive written documentation that the debt exists. Also remember to regularly check your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every twelve months.
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