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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2020 > Is That Debt Collection Call Legitimate or Phony?

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Is That Debt Collection Call Legitimate or Phony?

Debt collectors make a living by getting consumers to pay up. Naturally, this occupation is a popular disguise for scammers who want you to pay them instead.

It can be difficult to tell a phony debt collector from a legitimate debt collector, but learning your rights can help you better spot a scam. For example, debt collectors, by law, must tell you the name of the original creditor and how much money is owed. They’re also required to inform you that if you dispute the debt, the collector will have to obtain verification of the debt. If a debt collector does not communicate that information over the phone, they must mail you a letter with the information within five days. A phony debt collector probably will not take these steps.

Phony debt collectors may also:
  • Pressure you to pay immediately by prepaid money card, wire transfer or a gift card. Those types of payment methods are difficult to trace.
  • Say they will disclose your debt to family, friends or your employer. A real debt collector knows they are generally prohibited from telling others (besides your spouse or an attorney representing you in the matter) about your debt. However, they are permitted to ask others how they can locate you.
  • Request personal identifiable information, such as your bank account or Social Security number. Only reveal sensitive information after you have verified the caller is a legitimate debt collector.
  • Call you early in the morning or late at night. Legitimate debt collectors can only contact you from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Also, a legitimate debt collector, by law, cannot harass, threaten or deceive you.

If you are dealing with a real debt collector but do not believe you owe the money in question, you have 30 days from the date they contacted you to send the collector a letter disputing the debt and specifically requesting verification of the debt.

Regardless of whether or not you owe the debt, you can tell the debt collector in writing not to contact you again. That will not eliminate the debt, but it should stop a legitimate collector from contacting you again unless it is to acknowledge your request or to disclose they are suing you or taking other action.

Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.