The Better Business Bureau is warning people to beware of scammers claiming to be debt collectors, demanding payment for debts consumers don’t owe.
Last year, BBB received 2,893 nationwide reports from people who said they were contacted by debt collection scammers. More than a dozen people in the region reported being contacted by fake debt collectors last year, and two have reported the scams this year. The data comes from the BBB’s Scam Tracker, an online self-reporting tool.
“A lot of individuals aren’t going to report those embarrassments or just won’t take the time to report so we would predict that number to be significantly higher,” said John North, president and CEO of the BBB of Dayton.
Many of the potential victims locally realized before any funds could be stolen, according to reports in the Scam Tracker, but at least two local consumers had more than $100 each stolen from them in 2018.
One reported $104 was stolen.
The other lost $330 after she was contacted by Worldwide Processing Group, LLC, about a debt she owed, according to a statement from the BBB. The company was recently charged by the Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General’s Office for illegally purchasing and collecting on debts consumers either did not owe or had previously disputed.
The company said it bought a debt that person owed on a credit card, according to the report. But North said debt collectors might say people owe on taxes or utility bills as well.
“The guy I talked to was very nice and professional so I believed I owed this debt,” the woman reported through the Scam Tracker.
She set up a payment plan and then noticed an unauthorized charge on her bank card, which the bank closed to protect her. She then tried contacting the company with no luck.
Later when the company called as a courtesy about an upcoming payment, the woman asked where the loan originated and tracked it back to a credit union she had never heard of and which had no records of her. After an internet search she learned that the group was scamming others.
“Protect yourself and stay up to date by regularly pulling your credit reports and reviewing account statements. Keep track of money owed so if you receive a call from a collection company, you know what is legitimate and what is not,” North said.
If area residents are contacted by a debt collector, they should consider if the debt collector has provided official validation of the debt. It is required by the state of Ohio and no information should be provided until that notice is received.
People can also protect themselves by asking for more details about the company, including representative name, company, street address and telephone number. Don’t provide any payment details immediately, the BBB said. Instead research the company and make sure no scam-related reports have been made.
“Debt collection scams are one of the more common scams we see in the area…They can manipulate it any way that they want. They can manipulate the phone number to look anyway they want. Often times because individuals do owe debt, they fall for it,” North said.