Beware of 'phony debt collectors'

Clearwater, Florida – Debt scammers using a Clearwater address have highlighted the growing trend of phony bill collectors using personal information to scare consumers into paying liabilities they do not owe.

According to the Better Business Bureau, a company going by the name of ACS Incorporation Collection has been using false emails and names to try and trick people into paying debts. The company currently has more than 1,200 complaints against it with the BBB of West Florida.

"They're not regulated by a license in Florida. They have no licensing whatsoever," said BBB business relations director Bryan Oglesby."

Oglesby warns consumers to take immediate action if they get a call from a so-called debt collector suspected of being fraudulent. He suggests asking first for a validation notice that proves the debtor really owes money because most scammers will not be prepared or willing to do this. He also suggests calling back and looking up the number of the company that's trying to reach you to verify its legitimacy. If the company turns out to be fake, report them to the BBB as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

"If you know that you don't owe a debt at all, then you know that it's a false information, a false call," said Oglesby. "If you do owe a debt, call the debt collector directly. Check out your credit report. A lot of times when these scammers are calling you and they already know your name and address and phone number, they may have more information on you, so you do want to put an alert on your credit report, making sure they're not pulling credit on you or doing other tactics against your personal information."

It's also important to file a fraud alert against your credit report if you suspect suspicious activity. Consumers can get one free credit report a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Incorrect information can always be disputed with the credit bureaus for free.

"The key is never feel pressured, never feel threatened. Always know that you can ask questions, you can verify the information and make an informed decision if you do owe them money to pay it back to the right individual," said Oglesby. "Because if a scammer gets that money from you, it's not going to go to the debt collector, it's going to go to the scammer, and then you're going to owe that money again to the true debt collector."


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