Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey warns consumers about fake debt collector scams

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has sounded the alarm on the growing consumer scam by fake debt collectors in North Carolina. The N.C. Department of Insurance regulates debt collectors, and debt collectors must have a permit from the department to conduct business in the state.

“While most debt collectors are above board, there are always scammers who will take advantage of consumers, particularly at this time when the pandemic has made making ends meet tough for so many families,” Commissioner Causey said. “Consumers can help protect themselves from such scams by asking three questions to any person attempting to collect a debt.”

Question 1: What is the name, address and phone number of the company you’re calling from? A legitimate debt collector will be glad to provide this information.

Fake debt collectors will not answer or give you false information. The scammers know that the less you know about them the better their chances are of tricking you into giving them your money or personal information.

Never discuss debts over the phone. Ask the “collector” to send you a “validation notice,” a letter that is required to be sent within five days of first contacting you.

Question 2: What is the name and address of the debtor you’re trying to reach? Legitimate debt collectors will not have any problem giving you this information.

If the “collector” can’t tell you the correct name and address, it is a red flag. End the call!

Authorized debt collectors are required to provide truthful information if you ask.

If you are provided the wrong information or incomplete information, don’t correct the person or volunteer any information. Just tell the caller to send the verification letter to the address they have on file, explaining that you will respond accordingly once the letter is received. Then hang up!

Question 3: What are the last four digits of the debtor’s Social Security number? A legitimate debt collector will never answer this question!  If they do, they’re in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Yet, a fake debt collector might attempt to answer this question – especially if they have the last four digits of your Social Security number. In some cases, they may simply claim they don’t have any info in their file.

Never confirm personal information with any debt collector over the phone. Social Security number, banking information, and other personal details may be used to steal your identity.

Fake collectors may attempt to scare you into paying, threaten to have you arrested or pose as a government official. These are all violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. It’s also a clear sign the collector is a crook!

Remember, there is no such thing as being too careful with your identity and personal information.

Once you’ve determined a fake debt collector is calling, hang up and never speak with them again, no matter what they say or how often they call. Call the N.C. Department of Insurance toll-free consumer line at 1-855-408-1212. You may also contact Commissioner Causey at [email protected].

If the debt is legitimate, it does not mean the person calling is entitled to collect the debt. Again, wait for the letter.

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.