How to Tell if a Debt Collector is Legit?

Before interacting with a debt collector, it’s important to establish their legitimacy. Two ways to do that is consulting the Better Business Bureau and Lemberg Law’s directory of debt collectors.

Most people don’t have extensive experience with debt collection agencies, making it difficult to determine whether or not a debt collection agency is legitimate. Debt collection agency scams are real – and are sometimes quite elaborate. For example, in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Unicredit America, Inc., the state accused the debt collector of hiring people to pretend to be sheriff’s deputies and then go visit consumers. Once they encountered the consumer, the fake deputies would deliver a fake summons “requiring” them to show up in what turned out to be a fake courtroom before a fake judge.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. 1692e) makes it illegal to falsely claim that a document is from the government or use any deception in the process of collecting a debt. Needless to say, the allegations levied against Unicredit America would have violated this section of the law.

How do I know if a debt collector is scamming me?

If can be hard to tell the difference between a scam and a debt collector engaging in illegal activity. The FDCPA says that, within five days of first contacting you, a debt collector must send you a written notification outlining the amount owed, the name of the creditor, and your right to dispute the debt within 30 days. Failure to do so can mean that the debt collector is a scammer, or it could mean that the debt collection agency is violating the FDCPA.

The same holds true if the debt collector threatens you with:

  • Arrest or jail time.
  • Garnishing your wages.
  • Telling your family or friends about your debt.

Each of these behaviors is a violation of the FDCPA, but both legitimate debt collection agencies and scammers have been known to use these tactics.

Both legitimate debt collectors and scammers will pressure you into paying, but chances are good that scammers will ask you to pay using a money transfer, while a debt collection agency may ask for a money order or postdated checks.

How can I check to see if a debt collection agency is legit?

The two best ways to ascertain the legitimacy of a debt collection agency are to check the agency’s listing with the Better Business Bureau or to use Lemberg Law’s directory of debt collection agencies and scammers.

Lemberg Law has a team devoted to representing people who have been harassed, threatened, deceived, or abused by debt collectors. Call 475-277-1600 and receive a free consultation, or submit our online request form.

Case citation

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Unicredit America, Inc., Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, No. 14914-2010.

Have questions? Call us now at 475-277-1600 for a Free Case Evaluation.

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The harassing company pays our fees.


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