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Anyone who has debts that are behind has likely answered the phone only to find out that the caller is a debt collector. These phone calls can go downhill fast. In some cases, the caller might be a legitimate debt collector who will try to work with you to get your account paid off. In other cases, the person on the other end of the phone is nothing more than a scammer trying to swindle you out of your hard-earned money.

One of the most important things you can do when you deal with debt collectors is to ensure they are legitimate debt collectors. “Phantom debt collectors” might claim to be with a law enforcement agency, police department or law firm. In some cases, these phony debt collectors might have some of your personal information. That information is sometimes garnered from payday loan applications, so be wary of debt collectors.

Another marker to look for to determine if a debt collector is legitimate is to pay attention to the payment request. A legitimate collector won’t accept payments via a wire transfer or Green Dot MoneyPak, but that is often how these scammers will tell you to pay. They might make paying them seem enticing by claiming you owe thousands of dollars, but that you can settle the case for considerably less.

When these debt collectors call, you must be assertive. Don’t let them scare you. While you can be sued for an unpaid loan, you won’t be arrested for loan delinquency. Before you offer or promise any money, tell them you need a “validation notice,” which is a written notice about the creditor, balance and other information.

You shouldn’t let these debt collectors make you feel rushed. Don’t let them pressure you into sending them money. Instead, research the situation to determine if you do owe a debt. If you do owe someone money, call the company directly and inquire about the debt.

If the debt collectors continue to harass you after you demand a validation notice or specifically ask them not to contact you again, you might need to seek legal options in Florida to get the harassment to stop.

Source: CNBC, “Don’t fall for the ‘phantom debt collector’ scam” Herb Weisbaum, Apr. 13, 2014