Abusive and fraudulent debt collection is a major problem with some of the scammers who operate these scams even attempting to collect on debts that don’t even exist. I have reported to you many times about the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) actions against many of these scammers. Most recently the FTC and the New York Attorney General shut down the phony debt collection business operated by Robert Heidenreich who contacted consumers and lied about debts they owed. Heidenreich also used illegal scare tactics to spur his victims into paying him to settle the debts he claimed they owed.
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 they are 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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