Thursday, March 19, 2009, AM | 1 Comment
Just a few days have passed when a loved one passed away. The phone calls from bill collector agency, mostly bogus, come when people are most vulnerable. The bogus agencies struck recently in Mississippi, where at least half a dozen grieving families were phoned with the startling news. Their dearly departed had owed a large debt. The families were told if they did not pay the debt immediately, collection process would begin.
The phone calls seem to be specifically targeting elderly folks when they are not in their best decision-making capacity. This con is similar to one that prompted nationwide warnings from state officials back in 2002.
Families in at least 14 states received payment demands, within days of the death of a loved one, from a bogus company called Exodus Collection Services. The demands came in phone calls and invoices for up to $700 to settle an alleged unpaid debt of the deceased.
In the newer Mississippi calls, the callers named no specific collection agency. Bereaved families may be in a rush to settle the matter and be more likely to let their guard down.
To protect yourself against this kind of scam, spread the word. Here are 4 Tips how to handle bill collectors calling for a dead debt:
Know your obligation
You are not responsible for the deceased debt unless you are a cosigner on that debt. Otherwise, you are under no obligation to repay it, under the law.
Know what’s involved
If you cosigned for the loan or a credit card balance, it is unethical but legal for legitimate collection agencies to contact you after the borrower’s death. Ask the bill collector to go through the probate court to attempt to collect a debt owed by the deceased. On your part, you can provide your contact information but in no circumstances, your Social Security number and bank account or credit card numbers.
Get the facts of the matter
Require the collection agency to furnish proof of the debt. Have the agency put in writing who is owed the debt, how much, for what reason, when the loan was acquired and what is the reason for them to contact you.
Investigate the collection agency
When contacted by a bill collector, either for your own debt or those of a deceased loved one, check the company out by contacting the Better Business Bureau. If you still are not satisfied, contact your state Attorney General’s office.
In a Nutshell
Do research on your own and lots of it. Keep calm and keep your cool. Don’t panic just because a collection agency has contacted, bogus or legit.
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