Common Bankruptcy and Debt Collections Scams

The Scam List - Common Bankruptcy and Debt Collection Scams

In recent years, we have seen a dramatic rise in scams involving bankruptcy and debt collection. With more personal information available online, many of these scammers can be quite convincing. Worse, it is common for scammers to impersonate lawyers, courts, attorneys, and government officials. Here are some of the more common scams and ways to protect yourself from them.

Fake or Phantom Debt Collection Schemes

In this scam, fraudsters attempt to collect on a debt that either doesn't exist, has been paid off, or is beyond the Statute of Limitations. They often employ aggressive tactics, threatening legal action or severe consequences if you do not pay immediately. Sometimes, they claim to be attorneys, law enforcement, or government agencies.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Never pay someone who calls, texts, or emails you to collect a debt.
  • Never pay anyone who demands that you pay immediately or with an unusual form of payment.
  • Always demand written verification of the debt. If the alleged creditor will not provide written verification, it is a scam.
  • Never provide personal or financial information to anyone who calls you, including your date of birth, Social Security number, banking information, or email address. Better yet, do not answer their questions. You are under no obligation to talk to debt collectors.
  • If you believe the debt is legitimate, contact the original creditor to verify. Better yet, contact an attorney first.
  • Do not believe anything a debt collector says to you without verifying it. Debt collectors often lie.

Quick Note: Never pay anyone who demands that you pay with prepaid cards, cash, or some other unusual form of payment. A legitimate debt collector would not ask for payment in such a manner.

Costly and Ineffective "Debt Management" or "Credit Counseling" Services

Many companies promise to reduce or eliminate your debts but instead enroll you in a service that does little to address your financial troubles. Often, you end up paying huge fees for poor results while your credit rating is trashed. More often than not, the debts could have been resolved much sooner with a different approach. Thus, such programs often waste years you could have used to rebuild your credit. 

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Be wary of debt management companies that charge upfront fees.
  • Research the company's reputation and check for customer reviews.
  • Understand the terms of any agreement before signing.
  • Speak to a bankruptcy or debtor defense attorney before signing up for a debt management service. Often, an attorney can help you resolve your debt more quickly and for less.

Quick Note: We have represented many clients who spent years in ineffective debt management programs. Often, they are surprised to learn that they could have taken care of their debts years ago for a fraction of the cost. 

Fraudulent Debt Elimination Schemes

These scams claim to help eliminate your debt, often using dubious legal theories. Victims are typically convinced to pay hefty fees for documents purporting to absolve them of their debts, but these documents have no basis in law.

Quick Note: In our Greater Philadelphia debt and bankruptcy practice, we have seen many individuals targeted by scammers. Unfortunately, people pay the scammer before calling an attorney, and then it may be late.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Always be skeptical of entities promoting "secret" methods to eliminate debt.
  • Consult with an attorney before signing any agreement.

Post-Bankruptcy Scams

Recently, scammers have contacted discharged debtors, claiming that certain debts were not discharged in the debtor's bankruptcy. Sometimes, they impersonate the debtor's attorney, the court, or the bankruptcy trustee and ask the client to send money to pay for a non-discharged debt.  

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Know that your attorney should never call you to ask for additional funds to pay a debt after your bankruptcy discharge. 
  • Before disclosing information, make sure you are speaking to your attorney. Call back on the number you know to be correct.
  • Call your attorney if anyone contacts you to demand money for something related to your bankruptcy.

Credit Repair Scams

These scammers target people with debt issues, promising to repair their credit. They claim to boost your credit score quickly but often use illegal tactics or make false promises. By and large, "credit repair" companies ignore the reality that improving your credit takes time.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Understand that improving a credit score is a process and cannot be done overnight.
  • Be cautious of companies demanding hefty upfront fees.
  • Check the company's reputation through the Better Business Bureau or other trusted entities.
  • Talk to your attorney about ways to improve your credit over time.

In Conclusion

The best defense against bankruptcy and debt collection scams is knowledge and skepticism. Always be cautious when someone offers a too-good-to-be-true solution to your financial woes. Do your research, seek advice from an attorney, and trust your instincts.

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About this Blog

Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney is published by Harborstone Law. Harborstone Law represents clients in bankruptcy and debt relief cases throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding Pennsylvania counties.

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Dan Mueller is a bankruptcy attorney and partner at Philadelphia-based Harborstone Law. Dan helps people and small businesses resolve serious financial and legal issue through bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy debt solutions.
Paul Midzak focuses his practice on debtor defense, dispute resolution, consumer protection law, and Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. He also advises businesses on a variety of legal matters.
Harborstone Law represents clients in bankruptcy, debt, consumer, and small business matters throughout Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester, Bucks, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties in Pennsylvania.
questions? Call our office at 215-248-0989
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