More People Are Complaining About Debt Collection Scams

Fake debt collection scams are on the rise, and now rank among the top complaints scammed consumers file around the country, the National Consumers League says.

The consumer advocacy organization issued a special warning about the scams, which generally involve a cold call from a would-be criminal trying to intimidate the recipient into paying for an alleged debt. Some are from disreputable debt collectors, others are fake IRS tax bill scams.

Callers often claim the potential victim faces arrest and jail time — in some cases, claiming law enforcement agents will arrive any minute — in an attempt to scare a consumer into coughing up cash.

The warning comes as the National Consumers League released its annual list of top 10 scams, based on 10,000 complaints filed by consumers around the country with various agencies.

Sweepstakes and non-delivery of items purchase online remain near the top of the list. Traditional fake-check scams are on the decline.

One surprise from the report: Victims are now most likely to be contacted via telephone, rather than online. That’s a reversal from past years.

“Fraud remains one of the most pernicious threats facing consumers today,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We are particularly concerned about scammers increasingly relying on the ‘old-fashioned’ telephone as a way to reach millions of potentially vulnerable consumers.”

One bit of good news for consumers — they seem to be using unsafe wire transfers less often. Previously, wire transfer had been the most popular payment method reported to In 2014, nearly half (48%) of all victims reported paying by credit card when they lost money to a scam—continuing a trend first noted in 2013 (35%). Payments made with a credit card are much easier to reverse.

Other scams that persist on the top 10 list: friendship and sweetheart swindles; fake tech support phone calls; and scam scholarship assistance.

Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning about these three scams: fake Facebook friend requests, fake emails and that IRS scam.

Below is the full National Consumers League list.

10. Office: Ad Space/Directory Listings

0.73% of total

9. Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles

0.95% of total

8. Phishing/Spoofing

2.39% of total

7. Scholarships/Grants

3.06% of total

6. Computers: Equipment/Software

3.09% of total

5. Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers

6.35% of total

4. Recovery/Refund Companies

10.36% of total

3. Fake Check Scams

16.52% of total

2. Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts

25.65% of total

1. Internet: General Merchandise

26.32% of total

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