Ever had one of those moments where you receive a call from a debt collector demanding immediate payment and threatening you with legal consequences?
And then the next day, a “legal notice” appears in your mailbox, leaving you anxious and confused?
If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone.
The Department of Financial Protection & Innovation (DFPI) recently reported a surge in consumer complaints related to fake debt collectors attempting to collect on debts that don’t exist.
Nowadays, scammers are getting even more creative and using new tactics, such as sending fake summonses, to deceive people into giving them money.
Unfortunately, this debt collection scam preys on people’s fears and lack of knowledge about their rights.
They hope to trick victims into paying money they don’t owe.
But don’t worry; we have got your back. In this article, we’ll show you how to spot a fake summons from a debt collector and protect your hard-earned money from these scammers.
How a Fake Summons from Debt Collector Works?
Imagine receiving a court summons threatening you with legal action, wage garnishment, and even arrest if you do not pay immediately.
A legal document, even if it’s fake, is more than enough to send anyone into panic mode.
When you panic, emotions take control of your logic and reason.
As a result, you may act rashly without even verifying the authenticity of the summons or the person/entity who sent it. And this is exactly what the con artists were hoping for!
The reason these imposter scams are so effective is that most people don’t deal with court summonses and subpoenas in their everyday lives.
When someone receives legal notice, it feels like a severe issue; scammers know this and take advantage of this.
In fact, the entire premise of this scam revolves around creating a sense of urgency and pressure by pretending to be a legitimate debt collector or collection agency.
Most fake summonses often look and feel very convincing, complete with realistic seals, signatures, and case numbers.
From a victim’s perspective, the consequences of falling for such debt collection scams can be severe and goes beyond just financial losses.
Scammers may also get access to personally identifiable information (PII) and use it for fraudulent activities like identity theft, leading to further complications, like a damaged credit score, difficulty in getting loans, and even legal issues.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Fake Summons and a Real One?
To avoid falling victim to a fake summons scam, you must be cautious and verify every aspect of the summons you receive.
Here are some tips to help you determine the authenticity of a summons:
Check the Source
Look at the document’s legal language, including the response deadline, disability accommodations, and venue.
Next, verify the law firm’s name, contact information, and issuing court. You can even run a quick online search to verify their authenticity.
Look for the Docket Number and Signature
Every case in court includes a docket number as its official identification.
Verify the docket number listed on the summons and check for the official signature from the court clerk at your local courthouse.
If they don’t match, there’s something fishy.
Compare the Debt With Your Credit Report
Check your credit report for any unpaid debts or suspicious activity that match the amount on the summons.
You can collect a copy each from all three major credit bureaus once a year at no cost.
So, look it over carefully and report any mistakes or fraud immediately.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Ask questions and urge the debt collector to show proof, like the original contract you signed when acquiring the debt.
Use Modern-Day Tools
Use a reverse address lookup to identify any red flags associated with the summons, such as a fake address or a non-existent debt collection agency.
Know Your Rights
Learn about your rights as a customer, and don’t be intimidated by scammers’ threats.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) ensures that debt collectors and agencies can’t harass, intimidate, or threaten consumers.
Financial scams, particularly impersonator scams, can be avoided with caution and awareness.
If you are aware of your finances and stay vigilant, you can easily protect yourself from falling prey to a fake summons from a debt collector or other similar scams.
You are responsible for protecting your hard-earned money, so don’t let scammers get the best of you.
Above all, report any violations or suspicious activities to the proper authorities.