BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is warning consumers to be on the alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors. It may be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and an imposter.
Attorney General Caldwell said his office is seeing an uptick in reports from consumers who have received harassing telephone calls from people trying to collect on loans that don't even exist.
"This is a new twist on an old scam," Attorney General Caldwell said. "Criminals are impersonating law enforcement officers and other officials. They send out frightening letters and make threatening phone calls about debts to try to convince people to send them money. Some may misrepresent themselves, or even try to invoke my name or the name of other government officials."
Caldwell said no matter how convincing a letter or phone call seems, check it out. Be suspicious if anyone - no matter who they say they are - asks you to wire money, or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay back the debt.
A caller may be a fake debt collector if he or she shows any these signs:
- Demands payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize.
- Refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number.
- Seeks your personal, financial or sensitive information.
- Uses high pressure tactics to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.
If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, ask the caller for his or her name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice." The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Caldwell also advises consumers to stop speaking with the caller, and never give out or confirm personal, financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know with whom you're dealing. And if the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
Suspicious debt collectors should be reported to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (800) 381-4889.
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