Allison here, with AllClear ID. Collection calls are a legitimate practice in collecting credit card debt and other outstanding bills. However, sometimes they aren’t done by legitimate people, or the calls aren’t conducted in the right way, or by good people. Here are some tips on how to deal with collection calls and avoid paying a debt that isn’t yours:

  1. Don’t Give Away Your Bank Information – To prevent fraud and/or identity theft, don’t provide your bank or routing number over the phone. Don’t allow direct withdrawals, or pay off part of the debt by personal check either, as both of those options makes it too easy for an identity thief. The best way to pay off a debt is to use a money order, as it protects your information while providing proof of payment.
  2. Ask for Proof of the Debt – Within 30 days of receiving a call from a debt collection agency, you can submit a written request for proof of the debt. This will let you know how much it is, who it’s for, and whether or not it’s a legitimate debt. It’s possible you could have already paid the debt, or that you are a victim of identity theft because the debt isn’t really yours. You’ll only know this for sure if you submit a written request.
  3. Take Notes During All Calls – It’s possible the debt collector is fake, even if the debt is real, and is only trying to pressure people into paying these things off. If you think the caller is an imposter, ask for their name, company, address, and telephone number. By law, legitimate debt collectors have to release that information so if the caller resists, you know the call is fake. Don’t give this caller any personal or financial information, and make sure to report the call to the authorities with any information you have.
  4. Take Action if the Debt is Fake – If you are, in fact, a victim of identity theft, you need to do several things. First, send a written dispute to the collection agency, letting them know you are a victim and the debt is not yours. Second, ask the agency to stop calling you. By law, the agency must stop contacting you if you ask them to do so. Next, check all of your accounts to see if anything else of yours has been compromised. After that, request all three credit reports for investigation, and notify those companies to stop them from adding new credits to those reports. Lastly, notify law enforcement of the crime.

Dealing with collection calls are never fun, whether or not they are legitimate calls. However it’s important to know the difference between them to avoid a scam or identity theft, and it’s also important to know how to handle the situation in case you are a victim of identity theft.