Have you gotten a call, a letter, an email, or a text message about a debt that sounds fishy? Don’t take the bait, because “phantom” debt collectors try to pressure people into paying debts they don’t really owe. In its effort to crack down on phantom debt collectors, the FTC has charged a North Carolina operation with collecting over $30,000 in fake debts, despite consumer complaints that the debts weren’t real.
In 2014, the ACDI Group purchased a portfolio of more than 2,000 supposedly past-due payday loans. According to the FTC, these debts were fake – but the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, and email addresses attached to them were real. ACDI’s sister company began contacting these consumers to collect the bogus debts. In many instances, consumers complained about the fraudulent collections and provided proof that they didn’t owe the debt. Due to the high volume of complaints, the debt seller refunded to ACDI the money it paid for the debt portfolio. The debt seller also instructed ACDI to stop collecting on the debt. But that’s not the end of the story.
Not only did the defendants get a refund from the debt seller, they also kept the money they had already collected on the phony portfolio. Even worse, they continued collecting money from consumers on the fake debts for at least another seven months. The FTC’s action seeks to prevent future violations and refund people who paid money they didn’t really owe.
This case is part of the FTC’s efforts to combat phantom debt collection.
Don’t let debt collectors – real or phony – scare you. Know your legal rights, so you can spot when something isn’t right. By law, debt collectors have to send you a validation notice in writing, within five days of contacting you. If they don’t, that’s a red flag. And if a debt collector threatens, harasses or intimidates you to pay a debt, that’s illegal, too. Report it to the FTC.