Lately it seems the more and more people are getting harassing phone calls about old debts that they hardly recognize. When, not if, you get a call like this, don’t panic.

A very high percentage of these calls are from fraudulent collectors on fake or old debts. Bloomberg wrote a feature about this:

“But systematic schemes to collect on fake debts started only about five years ago. It begins when someone scoops up troves of personal information that are available cheaply online—old loan applications, long-expired obligations, data from hacked accounts—and reformats it to look like a list of debts. Then they make deals with unscrupulous collectors who will demand repayment of the fictitious bills. Their targets are often poor and likely to already be getting confusing calls about other loans. The harassment usually doesn’t work, but some marks are convinced that because the collectors know so much, the debt must be real.”



What do you do when you get these calls? How do you protect yourself in case it is real?

First, ask for a written statement. Get something that has their letterhead, especially a physical address. Then Google it. Track them down. Find their website. If they don’t have a real footprint, then it’s probably not a real debt.

Second, ask for account numbers and court case numbers. Then follow that information up. Call the actual creditor and ask if the account is out for collection. Check and see if there is an actual court filing on the court’s website.

Third, call a lawyer. See if the lawyer can help you figure out if this is real.

But whatever you do, don’t panic, don’t worry, don’t fret. Any debt is a solvable problem.

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