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To identify a debt collection scam, ask for your own information

The phone rings, and you don't have the number saved. You pick it up anyway, even though you think it's a telemarketer, but you're surprised to find out they're not trying to sell you anything. They do want your money, though. The person claims to be with a collections agency, trying to collect on what you owe.

Now, there could be a lot of red flags. Maybe you don't have any outstanding debt. Maybe you thought you already paid it. Maybe the collector gets your name wrong on the phone.

No matter what, one of the most important things you can do is to start asking for more information. Ask what company is involved, requesting the address and phone number. Ask the same thing about yourself to make sure they have the right person. Then, simply ask for the last four digits of your own Social Security number.

If it's a scam, the collector might answer you, trying to bluff through the conversation. However, it's a trick question. saying those digits over the phone is a clear violation of the FDCPA, or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. A real professional will know that, while someone who is trying to scam you may be more than happy to read off the numbers, trying to convince you that the call is real and not suspecting the trick.

While this is a good tactic to use, it may already be too late. If you've been victimized by any type of debt scams, aimed at people who are already struggling financially, it could be time to look into your legal options.

Source: The Simple Dollar, "Expose a Fake Debt Collector by Asking These Three Questions," accessed Jan. 18, 2017

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