While it’s never pleasant to be called by any creditor regarding debt, it’s especially nasty to receive calls from companies or individuals claiming to be debt collectors. The fake debt collectors’ particular scam changes from time to time, but there are always going to be people trying to take advantage of people’s situations. Some of the recent scams have claimed to be from the Australian Tax Office (ATO), your utility provider and even Centrelink. They’ll tell you you’re owing on an overdue bill or a tax debt, or that you need to pay a fine in order to keep receiving your Centrelink payments.
Fake Debt Collectors
Using local numbers for credibility, the voice on the other line – whoever they’re claiming to be – will inform you that your service will be disconnected or that your credit rating will be adversely affected if you don’t pay immediately. Of course this is a scary experience for anyone, especially those who do have debts or loans in the stages of repayment. If you’re in that position, be very wary of anyone calling you in regards to your debt. The caller will attempt to create a sense of urgency with threats before offering you the solution, which in this case is handing over your personal information and financial details to make payment.
If you’re contacted by an organisation you believe may be fake debt collectors, here are the warning signs (and cues to hang up!):
End the call if: The caller cannot provide you a name, address and company for the original creditor. Alternatively, hang up if they name an organisation you know for certain is not your creditor.
End the call if: They tell you your debt is much higher than you owe.
End the call if: They can’t tell you the date and details for the debt (is it a loan, is it a bill – which month/period was the bill for?)
End the call if: They ask you for any banking, credit card details or they request that you send them money via wire transfer.
After you’ve hung up, find any official paperwork regarding your debt, or your most recent bill or communication from the company who supposedly called you, and call them back to inquire. They will be able to confirm that the call came from fake debt collectors, and you’ll be relieved to know that you either owe nothing like you thought all along, or that the debt you’re owing is still the same amount.
Fake debt collectors are unfortunately incredibly crafty, and when successful, they manage to con thousands of people out of large sums. Back in 2012, America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) busted call centres that were claiming to be law enforcement officers, threatening to arrest people if they didn’t receive payment. The FTC shut down down two California-based companies that used a call centre in India to defraud Americans out of more than $5 million between 2010 and 2012.
If you think you’ve been contacted by fake debt collectors, contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and report a scam to prevent further cons.