CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning consumers about telephone calls from companies who claim to be debt collectors summoning them to court over unpaid credit card debt.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division recently has received complaints from residents who have received calls such as these, including one from a resident whose husband was deployed with the military when the alleged credit card had been opened.
“These types of scams are troubling because these callers sometimes prey on consumers who may already be in dire financial straits, and they scare them into handing over money or personal information,” Morrisey said in a statement. “It’s important to remember that any debt collection company must adhere to the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and they cannot threaten to put you in prison over credit card debt.”
While there are several ways to spot these phony collection agencies, the biggest red flag is that you don’t have any outstanding debt to the company they claim to represent.
Additionally, if the caller refuses to provide you with written notification of the debt’s validity or demands immediate payment through a pre-paid debit card or money transfer to prevent immediate arrest, it’s almost certainly a scam.
“It’s important that if you do receive one of these calls, you do not panic,” Morrisey said. “Get as much information as you can from the caller and then report the call to law enforcement and our Consumer Protection Division.”
Also, consumers have the ability to check their credit report for free annually by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. If there are errors, consumers have the right to dispute those, and if the consumer discovers accounts that have been opened in their name without their knowledge, they may report the fraud to the credit bureaus and work to have the issue resolved.
Morrisey asks residents who have received calls such as these or have been the victim of credit card debt fraud to call his office's Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808.