Receiving a telephone call from a debt collector is not a pleasant experience. Being hounded by someone attempting to collect a debt you do not owe is fraud. These non-existent debts are sometimes referred to as “phantom debts.” In February, I reported to you that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had obtained a temporary restraining order stopping Global Asset Financial Services Group, LLC , ten affiliated companies and their six individual principals from continuing to use deceptive and threatening tactics to collect phantom debts from consumers that were not even owed by the consumers. In some instances the scammers posed as attorneys and threatened lawsuits if their victims did not pay the non-existent debts. In May, four of the defendants settled the charges against them with the FTC and now the remaining defendants also agreed to a settlement with the FTC. According to the terms of the settlements, all of the defendants are banned from conducting debt collection services and monetary judgments totaling 25.5 million dollars were also imposed, however, most of the monetary judgment was suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay.
Subject to strict federal laws, legitimate debt collectors are permitted to call debtors, however, the law prohibits them from threatening imprisonment for the failure to pay a debt and attempting to collect a debt that the debt collector knows is bogus. It can be difficult to know when someone calls attempting to collect a debt if indeed the debt collector is legitimate or not, so the best course of action if you receive such a call is to not discuss the debt with the person calling, but instead demand that they send you a written “validation notice” by regular mail which describes the debt they allege you owe and includes a listing of your rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Never give personal information over the phone to anyone who calls you attempting to collect a debt. You can never be sure who they are. If you receive the validation notice and it appears to be legitimate, you may be better off contacting your creditor directly because the person who called you may not be representing the creditor, but may merely have information about the debt.
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