Be sure to check your DMs for debt Scams and Collectors
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Be sure to check your DMs for debt Scams and Collections
The article was written by Lauren Schwahn Lead Writer | Personal financial, the debt Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet who covers budgeting, debt and savings strategies. She is a contributor to the “Millennial Money” column for The Associated Press. Her work has also been featured on USA Today, MarketWatch and other publications. Lauren holds a bachelor’s degree in the field of history at The University of California, Santa Cruz. She is based within San Francisco.
Feb 11, 2022
Edited by Kathy Hinson Lead Assigning Editor Personal financial, credit scoring, debt and money management Kathy Hinson leads the core personal finance team at NerdWallet. In the past, she worked for 18 years working at The Oregonian in Portland in positions such as copy desk chief and team editor and designer. Prior experience includes copy and news editing for various Southern California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. She graduated with a bachelor’s in mass communication and journalism in Iowa’s University of Iowa.
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Social media are where you stream cooking videos, scroll through images of beautiful travel destinations and doomscroll through endless headlines in the news. Now, sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter could also be where debt collectors are able to sneak into your DMs.
In 2021’s final year, the rules changes will come into effect that specify the ways that third-party debt collectors are able to communicate through social media, emails and text messages.
Consumer advocates such as April Kuehnhoff, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, are concerned that these rules could create confusion and a rise in scams.
“It’s far less expensive using electronic communications to reach out to larger numbers of people. There will be a surge in the number and type of illegal actors that are impersonating debt collectors and sending emails direct messages, texting or emailing individuals to convince them to pay off debts they don’t really owe,” Kuehnhoff says.
Being aware of the signs and understanding your rights can help you guard against unfair and fraudulent practices. Here’s what to watch for and ways to stay safe as you sift through notifications.
Be aware of the warning signs
Several warning signs can be used to warn you about fraud or abusive behavior:
The message isn’t private.
Debt collectors may request to join your followers or friends as in the event that they inform you they’re debt collectors. However, the FDCPA stipulates that all communications must be private. This means that messages cannot be visible to the public or to anyone else within your network on the platform. If you receive a message that people can see, it is a sign that you’re not a good person.
The most important information is not available
Collectors of debt are legally required to provide specific information about the debt, which includes the amount owed, the creditor’s name and details about your rights. They usually share this information, also known as a validation note, the first time they reach you, or within five days.
“If someone is simply saying “I’m an debt collector’ and not doing anything other than that, I’d be suspicious from the beginning,” says Katie Bossler Quality assurance specialist at GreenPath, a nonprofit credit counseling agency.
You’re harassed or threatened
“Sometimes fraudsters threaten customers with arrest or deportation or attempt to convince consumers into paying in a hurry,” Kuehnhoff says. However, it is not legal for collectors to use threats or use violent or profane words.
A collector is also unable to legally sue you if the debt is not time-barred or past the time limit for suing. How do you know when your debt has been time-barred? Research your state’s laws and look over your payments from your credit records. Or, consider seeking help from your local or a non-profit Credit counseling service.
You’re asked to make an unusual transaction
The majority of fraudsters seek quick payment using methods that are difficult to recover. A legitimate debt collector won’t pressure you to pay using unreliable methods like a Bitcoin terminal, money transfer or prepaid cards, Kuehnhoff says. “They won’t tell you to go down to the Apple store to purchase an Apple gift card.”
Don’t make any payments without confirmation that the debt as well as the collector are genuine. Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission.
Protect your rights
The FDCPA offers you certain protections. For example, you can decide to stop receiving communication. Collectors must provide an easy and free method to stop contact with social media. That won’t erase the debt however.
You can also choose to challenge a debt you believe is incorrect or not yours. But, you must make a written request within 30 days after receiving notice in order to challenge or seek more information regarding the debt. Information on how to do either must be included in the initial letter sent by the collector to you.
What can you do to verify the debt and the collector? Bossler suggests starting with pulling your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. “Make an outline of all the debts you owe including the creditor, the balances, the account numbers. The debt collector will usually use the fourth digits of the account number,” Bossler says.
You may be dealing with a collection company for the original creditor, making it easier to match up the details. But the original creditor may have sold this debt to an external company. This third-party collector needs to be able to provide details such as their name, their company name, and postal address. Use these details to double-check their authenticity.
“Several states have debt collection licenses enrolled with the NMLS which is the National Multistate Licensing [System],” Kuehnhoff says. “Even in the event that your state doesn’t utilize it, it could be a useful resource to determine if the name is a legitimate debt collection name that’s registered across other states.”
Even if everything checks out, don’t feel that you have to settle the bill immediately. The payment you make could trigger a debt that was beyond the statute of limitations. Instead, give yourself time to create a plan that works for you and your budget.
If a debt collector violates your rights, or you come across fraud, you are able to file a complaint with the FTC or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or your state attorney general’s office.
This piece was written by NerdWallet and was originally printed by The Associated Press.
Author bios: Lauren Schwahn covers consumer credit and debt for NerdWallet. She has also been highlighted by USA Today and The Associated Press.
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