In June of 2018, The Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General’s Office charged Worldwide Processing Group, LLC, with illegally purchasing and collecting on debts consumers either did not owe or had previously disputed. The FTC and New York Attorney General’s Office reported the company knew the debts they were collecting on were fake, but collected on them anyway.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood stated, “It’s unconscionable to collect on fake debts that consumers don’t actually owe in order to make a quick buck.”
Although this company was operating out of New York, people in our own community were impacted by the scam and reported it through Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker. A local Kettering woman reported being contacted by Worldwide Processing Group in March of 2018. The consumer said the man she spoke with was nice and professional, leading her to believe he was from a legitimate company. After setting up a payment plan, the consumer found a fraudulent charge on her bank account, but was unable to reach the company to clarify. She found out the debt collections attempt was a scam when she contacted who she was told was the original creditor and they had no information about her in the system. In total, the consumer lost $330.
In 2018, BBB received 2,893 nationwide reports from people about debt collections scams through BBB Scam Tracker, an online tool that enables people to report scams to help prevent others from falling prey to similar cons. The easy-to-use tool collects and presents scam data in a searchable online heat map, showing users the number and types of scams and hoaxes reported in their communities.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from debt collection scams:
• Ask the debt collector to provide official validation notice of the debt. In the U.S., debt collectors are required by law to provide this information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
• Ask for more information. If you do owe money and aren’t sure if the caller is real, ask for his or her name, company, street address and telephone number.
• Do not provide bank account, credit card or other personally identifiable information over the phone. If the collector is legitimate, he or she should have details on the accounts in question.
• Hang up if you don’t have any outstanding loans. Don’t press any numbers or speak to an agent.
• Check your credit report. This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity.
• Place a fraud alert on your credit report.
• Research the company. Use trusted third-party resources, such as your Better Business Bureau. Visit www.bbb.org or call 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301 to get a Business Profile on the company.
Protect yourself and stay up to date by regularly pulling your credit reports and reviewing account statements. Keep track of money owed so if you receive a call from a collection company, you know what is legitimate and what is not.
It may be difficult to remember every transaction and debt you may have, but make sure you do your research and ask the right questions. Don’t let a phony company scam you out of hundreds that you don’t owe.
The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.