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Attorney General Josh Stein: Don't fall for debt collection scams

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RALEIGH — Attorney General Josh Stein is warning North Carolinians to beware of fraudulent debt collectors and debt collection scams as part of Operation Corrupt Collector, a nationwide crackdown targeting debt collectors who use scare tactics to try to collect on non-existent debts.

“Debt collection scammers try to convince people that they owe unpaid debts and threaten to arrest or report you to the authorities if you don’t pay them,” Stein said. “Fear is one of the oldest tools in a scammer’s toolbox. If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be collecting your debt, please take the time to verify who you’re speaking with and don’t give in to the pressure to pay up. My office will fight unlawful debt collection practices and the bad actors that use them, especially with so many people struggling financially because of COVID-19.”

Many debt collectors employ tactics designed to scare consumers and threaten consequences. If you get a collection call or notice, take steps to verify the call and determine your rights:

• Determine who’s calling — get the caller’s name, the name of the collection company, its address and its phone number. Verify that this company is legitimate. In North Carolina, you can do so by contacting the N.C. Office of the Secretary of State and the N.C. Department of Insurance.

• Get validation information about the debt — within five days of contacting you, debt collectors are required by law to provide you with details about the debt, including the amount, the current creditor and how to get the name of the original creditor.

• Debt collectors cannot threaten to arrest you or take other actions, such as suspending your driver’s license, reporting you to immigration authorities or calling your employer. If you’re being threated, hang up and report the call to the N.C. Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division (1-877-5-NO-SCAM) and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/complaint).

• Look into the debt by checking with the original creditor.  

• Remember that you can dispute debt if you think you don’t owe some or all of it.

So far in 2020, 1,048 North Carolinians have filed reports with the FTC about debt not owed or abusive debt collection practices, and the NCDOJ’s Consumer Protection Division has received 240 complaints against debt collection agencies. 

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, report it to http://ncdoj.gov/complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. More information is available at www.ftc.gov/debtcollection and at https://ncdoj.gov/protecting-consumers/credit-and-debt/debt-collectors/.