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Nobody likes getting debt collection calls. But have you ever gotten one for a debt you already paid — or you know isn’t yours? Or have you been threatened and harassed by a debt collector until you paid up? If so, we want you to know how to protect yourself.

Today, in partnership with federal and state law enforcement partners, the FTC announces Operation Corrupt Collector, a federal-state law enforcement sweep against fake and abusive debt collectors. The operation includes five FTC actions, with two new cases announced today.

In each of the new FTC cases announced today, the companies claimed to be collecting on debt that they can’t legally collect, or that people don’t actually owe. In these cases, the companies made robocalls to people, telling them that they’ve been sued, or soon will be, if they don’t pay up.

In cases announced today by our law enforcement partners, the companies called people claiming to be law enforcement officials or attorneys — scaring people with threats of arrest at their workplace, prison, or suspension of their driver’s license if they didn’t pay right away.

Have you gotten a collection call about a debt you don’t recognize? Before you pay:

1. Find out who’s calling. Get the name of the collector, the collection company, its address, and phone number.

2. Get “validation” information about the debt. Within 5 days of first contacting you, debt collectors must “validate” or tell you the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and how to get the name of the original creditor. 

3. Don’t respond to threats. When scammers threaten to arrest you, suspend your driver’s license, or call your employer if you don’t pay immediately, hang up and report the collector to the FTC at

4. Do your own detective work. Check with the original creditor. Is the debt yours? Did they sell your debt or hire a company to collect it? If so, is the caller the original creditor’s collector?

5. Dispute the debt. If you think you don’t owe some — or all — of the debt, dispute it with the collector by mail or online. Even if you got validation information.

Learn more about dealing with debt collection at

Want to get more involved? Join us for a Twitter chat on debt collection and Operation Corrupt Collector, next Thursday, October 8th at 3pm EST. You can follow the conversation by following us @FTC and using #OpCorruptCollectorChat.

Help us get the word out: share this graphic about debt collection on your social media.

Don't recognize that debt? infographic

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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September 29, 2020
there should be a number to call for confirmation or help on calls to confirm the authenticity of there business i think i may be a victome of fake past debt collection
FTC Staff
September 29, 2020

In reply to by bbsmith

If you get a debt collection call from a business you don't recognize:

  1. Get the name of the person calling, the collection company, its address, and phone number.
  2. Tell the collector to send you validation notice that says the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and how to get the name of the original creditor. A debt collector has to send you that information within five days of contacting you.
  3. If you know you owe a debt, call the business you owe. Ask them if they sold your debt to a collector, or hired a company to collect the debt. Ask them if the company that called you is working for them. 
September 29, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

Thank you!!! Glad I have signed up for these emails!! I have been receiving calls from 2 separate phone numbers from the state of Maryland for months, finally answered it yesterday!! I was told the company name was "OffShore" Collections", I was supposed to give her my address and telephone number! Uhm, no I think not!! My debt has been paid!! I have blocked these numbers, im sure new ones will pop up! Thanks for this information!!
They call me Bruce
September 29, 2020
It is about time the FTC did this. I have been fighting off phantom collections for years. Now all those criminals are going down!
September 29, 2020
First and most important this "advice" above states I should answer strange phone calls and second I should talk to the robocalls? Both of these are counter-intuitive and wrong! It is not my job to provide any information (by even answering the call) to these crooks. HOW will the FTC and FCC protect me from this fraud and these thieves?
FTC Staff
September 29, 2020

In reply to by DLGK5

No, we aren't suggesting you give information, these tips suggest how to get information if you get a collection call about a debt you don't recognize. 

If you get a collection call about a debt you don't recognize, you can ask who is calling. Then get validation about the debt. If you know you owe a debt, call your creditor to see if it is working with a collector. You can dispute some or all of the debt with the collector. Learn more at

September 29, 2020
We have been getting threatening phone calls for months regarding a payday loan debt that if we do not pay immediately we will be taken to court. We do not have any payday loans and the "debt collectors" are posing as a law firm and the debt is directed at my disabled veteran husband who has a service-connected brain injury. I refuse to allow these ID thieves to speak with my husband, state that I am his legal guardian (which I am) and ask them to state their "business". I then report all the information I have collected to the appropriate venues, including this website. There are several members of our family that are receiving these same types of calls from the same "law firm", which is a legitimate law firm in the mid-west; however, when contacted, they have adamantly claimed it is not them making these calls. It is incumbent upon this law firm to take action on their own website notifying the public that these actions are attempts at identity theft. It is incumbent on the appropriate law enforcement venue to take this matter seriously and investigate these threatening phone calls, particularly towards disabled veterans which is in violation of federal protection laws. I have collected and reported enough information via complaint on this website for investigators; however, this website cannot take action as the "law firm" is not in their system, nor are the debt collectors utilizing different names regarding the "payday loan" companies. This is harassment at its highest level and must be taken seriously. I will report each and every attempt at ID theft and fraud appropriately regardless of whether or not we receive any help to protect my disabled veteran husband from these criminals.
FTC Staff
September 29, 2020

In reply to by slhsc

Thank you for reporting to the FTC. Your reports are shared with law enforcement agencies and may be used for investigations.

You can also report problems to your state attorney general and the attorney general in the state where the business is located. This page lists all state attorneys general. 

September 30, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

Do what I did, it worked beautifully. Call your state's attorney general's office and ask to speak to someone from their Consumer Protection department. I did have to mail document copies to the Consumer Protection Office. With-in a week after they called me to confirm some information, everything stopped. Yes, the collection agency was not located in my state.
September 30, 2020

In reply to by slhsc

Could you share the name of the law firm?, I have received the same kind of call. The person has also reached out to my ex-husband, of 8 years.
September 29, 2020
Someone from "merrick bank" has left several voicemails about paying a "debt" and addresses me as "Ivan" which isn't my name. Likely hoping that I would answer which would verify to them there's a live person on the other end to scam. I don't answer the calls and have never done business with that "bank" in any form or fashion.
September 29, 2020
I been reporting fake debt collectors for years. Especially those collecting for cashnet usa. They keep changing their company name but it's the same group cuz that's the only information they bought on me I guess. What's happening to them? I have emails, phone numbers, and now a company name and address yet here they are allowed to scam ppl.
FTC Staff
September 30, 2020

In reply to by Cs

You can report that information to the FTC at The information you give goes into a secure database and is used by the FTC and other law enforcement agencies nationwide for investigations.

September 29, 2020
thank you all for the info you get to us!! keep up the great work, stay safe and healthy, as i get all these robo calls even thou i am on the do not call list, they usually hang up as i have an answering machine on!! thank you again!!
Don't use your…
September 29, 2020
I had a person call saying a case number and wanted to know where I am. .They also called my ex husband and his wife in another state, asking where I was living and gave them my "case number" saying they know I live there. 1st I have been divorced 20 years and haven't been back to that stste.. 2nd I checked ..the quote case number it is not an acct number nor docket number for any court. Meaning no judgment or criminal action...very threating call. How do I stop this caller
The Artist
September 29, 2020
I received a call from a debt collection company saying I owe for a speeding ticket from 1993. They threaten me and said my license will be suspended. Please help
October 16, 2020

In reply to by The Artist

The traffic ticket scam has been going around for awhile. They claim to be a law enforcement agent and threaten to suspend your license or have you arrested if you don’t send them money for a traffic citation. Some even demand payment in the form of a gift card. Do not give them any information or money and report them. No law enforcement agent will ever call you regarding a ticket nor will they demand you pay them directly especially in the form of an amazon or prepaid Visa card as some people reported happening. Not to mention 1993 is almost 30 years ago, if you had outstanding tickets that old you would have had an arrest warrant or suspended license decades ago! Report the number they call from and do not give them any information at all!
Redds Kitchen
September 30, 2020
On the 18th I received an email for loan that I do have but in this email the amount of my loan and the company of my loan is wrong. This email said it was a NOTICE OF WAGE GARNISHMENT from District Court. In this email it said I needed to reply by the 17th and i got this email on the 18th. I sent a reply questioning who this was and then I got another email with a number and address of this company. I called the number and it sounded like the guy was driving and then the phone hung up and he called back. He is basically saying that I used this company to get money from people with my email and I will be charged with six serious charges and have to go to jail. I set up an arrangement and asked for the steps for what i am supposed to do. In the third email I got it told me how I was going to give the money and where I needed to go to get a vanilla prepaid card or a american express card. It also gave me instructions on how to make the payments with these cards. Today I was supposed to make the payment and I didn't make one. I have been getting phone calls, text messages, and emails telling me I need to respond asap. The last email said that they can see that I read all the emails and ignored them. Then they said they will download this to the courts and I will be blacklisted and my employer will be notified of what I have done in the past. Is this a new a way of making people scare and forcing them to make payments? I am trying to figure out what to do with all the information I have found out about this company and person.
FTC Staff
October 01, 2020

In reply to by Redds Kitchen

This sounds like a scam. If someone pressures you and threatens to report you to law enforcement, that's a sign of a scam. Telling you to pay with a prepaid card is another sign of a scam. 

A legitimate debt collector has to send you a validation notice about your debt within five days after they first contact you. That's the law. Read this FTC article to learn more about signs of a fake debt collector and what a legitimate debt collector has to do so you're ready if anyone contacts you.

October 05, 2020
I keep getting calls/ messages from a differant person /# every time that they are giving me a chance t make aup a reduced portion on my student loan , just call them back. I have had a Gov. Pell Grant , which i didnt think was to be paid back but have never had a "" student loan "" . Spoke to an individual many months ago about my grant and was told they have nothing in their system as me owing anything ,,,, so what do i do about so many differant calls?
FTC Staff
October 06, 2020

In reply to by Vinaalane

The US Department of Education has information about Pell Grants. You can read about Pell Grants to learn if you might owe a debt or not.

If someone is calling you about a debt you don't owe, follow the steps in this blog. 

October 06, 2020
Good Day, For years I have not received any calls from any creditors, yet as soon as the lockdown began I have been receiving calls non-stop. I have even told the agents that they have not bothered me for 2-3 years with "outstanding debt" so why are they calling me now when we're in a Pandemic and most people do not have money. I have even informed them I am unemployed, but the calls still don't stop and they can't give me valid reasons why they are only calling me now and not when I apparently went into arrears with them. What can I do in this situation?
October 07, 2020
What about instances in which a debt is paid in full, yet the creditor denies such? I paid in full a short term loan from a national "small personal loan and title loan" company. However, they insist that I have not; despite bank records, screen shots and other evidence proving that this debt was paid in full, in February 2020. All efforts to settle the confusion directly with them has been in vain, including an inability to reach a live rep at a physical location has proven (at last attempt, at least) futile, and when I've returned calls in response to voicemails from the companies "corporate" office, the calls are dropped before even picked up....???? Consequently, my account with the company has not only been satisfied and closed, but fees, interest and God only knows what other costs have accrued to much more than even the original loan amount... What do I do?
October 11, 2020
I was plagued by a collection agency for over 8 years because someone had the phone number I have at one time. Finally, I filed a complaint with the FTC, and eventually, the company admitted to doing this, said they removed my number from their database and for a period of time the calls stopped. What you don't know is that the company just sells that account to another company it starts all over again. Waste of time. Just don't answer any numbers you don't recognize. They always use a fake number anyway and usually mumble the company name. If you keep asking what the company name is, they will hang up on you. If you ask to speak to a manager, they will hang up on you. If you try to ask them anything or argue with them, they will hang up on you. Save yourself the headache of filling out a complaint form and just don't answer numbers you don't recognize and block them.
October 19, 2020
What if it is an g.mail threat? They attorney keeps harrassing me regarding a debt I do not owe. Actually, I recognize his client and this loan company actually cost me a couple thousand dollars. I lost my bank and almost my monthly income.
BscDon't use y…
December 29, 2020
I got a extremely fast 9 second voicemail from a more local online number telling me something about a debt collector. It’s so fast they don’t even say who they are looking for or what it’s about. The did rattle off the 1-888 of a debt collector but I will not respond since there is nothing to go on. Figured it could even be a scam of those that call back the original localized number
March 24, 2021
I have been getting emails stating that if I don't pay a debt I was going to be arrested and they refuse to give me a phone number stating that due to covid they are working remotely
August 13, 2021
I do not want to engage or speak with these people at all. They have been calling me daily for weeks. They do not identify their company, they do not use my name-they say "Important call from a debt collector" They use a first name only that is not even mine.