Phantom Debt Collectors

Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive for amounts they do not owe.  Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect them.

The FTC is warning consumers to be alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors.  It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one.

A caller may be a fake debt collector if he/she:

  • is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
  • refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
  • asks for personal financial or sensitive information; or
  • exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to make a list of protections provided by the Fair Collection Practices Act.
  2. Ask students to prepare a list of steps they should take if the harassment continues.

Discussion Questions

  • If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, why is it important to ask the caller for his name, company, street address, or telephone number?
  • If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, should you stop speaking with the caller? Why or why not?

The Credit Repair Organizations Act

The Credit Repair Organization Act (CROA) makes it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about what they can do for you, and to charge you before they’ve performed their services.  The CROA is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and requires credit repair companies to explain:

  • your legal rights in a written contract that also details the services they’ll perform,
  • your three day right to cancel without with any charge,
  • how long will it take to get results,
  • the total cost you will pay, and
  • any guarantees.

What if a credit repair company you hired doesn’t live up to its promises?  You have some options.  You can:

  • sue them in federal court for your actual losses or for what you paid them, whichever is more,
  • seek punitive damages—money to punish the company for violating the law,
  • join other people in a class action lawsuit against the company, and if you win, the company has to pay your attorney’s fees.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to make a list of major provisions of the Credit Repair Organization Act.
  • Ask students if there is a time limit on reporting negative information about criminal convictions.

Discussion Questions

  1. Where and how can you report credit repair frauds?
  2. Can the FTC resolve individual credit disputes? If not, why should you file the complaint with the FTC?

Overhauling Debt Collection Market

New Protections Would Limit Collector Contact and Help Ensure the Correct Debt is collected

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering to overhaul the debt collection market by capping collector contact attempts and by helping to ensure that companies collect the correct debt.  Under the proposals being considered, debt collectors would be required to have more and better information about the debt before they collect.  As they are collecting, companies would be required to limit communications, clearly disclose debt details, and make it easier to dispute the debt.  When responding to disputes, collectors would be prohibited from continuing to pursue debt without sufficient evidence.  These requirements and restrictions would follow the debt if it were sold or transferred.

For more information about the proposals under consideration, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students what federal laws already prohibit debt collectors from harassing, oppressing, or abusing consumers.
  • Ask students if they, their friends or relatives, have ever been harassed by creditors. If so, what were their experiences?

Discussion Questions

  1. Debt collection market generates more complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau than any other financial product or service. Why?
  2. What might be some common complaints against debt collectors seeking to collect debt from consumers?

Internet Fraud

How many people are scammed into sending money or giving personal information each year?
Answer: Millions!!

Types of Internet Fraud

  • Internet auction fraud—involves the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale on an Internet auction site, or non-delivery of merchandise.
  • Credit card fraud—the unauthorized use of credit/debit card, or card number, scammers fraudulently obtain money or property.
  • Investment fraud—an offer using false claims to solicit investments or loans, or providing purchase, use, or trade of forged or counterfeit securities.
  • Nigerian letter or “419” fraud—named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, it combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, e-mail, or fax is received by a victim.

Tips for Avoiding Internet Fraud

  • Know your seller – If you don’t know who you are buying from online, do some research.
  • Protect your personal information – Don’t provide it in response to an e-mail, a pop-up, or website you’ve linked to from an e-mail or web page.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Bring to class Internet-related problems and examples of individuals or families. Suggest ways in which these problems might be solved.
  • Compile a list of places and organizations where a person can call to report Internet fraud.

Discussion Questions

  1. While the Internet makes everyday tasks faster and more convenient, like stopping, banking, and communicating, why it’s important to be safe, secure, and responsible online.
  2. What are some basic precautions we can take to protect our computer and personal data from theft, misuse, and destruction?

Fake Payday Loan Debts

In September 2015, the Federal Trade Commission banned Kirit Patel and his company, Broadway Global Masters, from the debt collection business. Patel and his company illegally collected more than $5.2 million in fake payday loan debts.  He also pleaded guilty to the Department of Justice on charges of criminal mail and wire fraud.  Specifically, Patel’s company:

  • Called people and pushed them to pay debts they didn’t really owed,
  • Posed as law enforcement and fake government agencies like the “Federal Crime Unit of the Department of Justice”,
  • Threatened to sue or arrest people—or tell their family and employers about a debt, and
  • Recited people’s Social Security and bank account numbers to seem legit.

So how can you tell if you’re being targeted by a fake debt collector?  A caller may be a fake debt collector if:

  • You don’t recognize the debt,
  • You can’t get a mailing address or phone number for the collector,
  • You’re asked for personal financial or sensitive information, and
  • You’re threatened with arrest or told you’ll be reported to a law enforcement agency.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to prepare a list of steps they should take if they receive a call from a debt collection agency.
  • Encourage students to visit a local office of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. What assistance is available if the debt is legitimate, but the debt collector is not?

Discussion Questions

  1. What can governmental agencies do to stop scammers from bilking honest and innocent people?
  2. Why is it important to obtain and review your free credit reports at least once a year?

Protecting Your Retirement Pension

Pension advance lenders offer retirees and veterans a loan or cash advances in exchange for all or part of their pension payments.  Paying back the advance or loan, plus the high interest and fees that such loans typically include, could threaten older Americans’ retirement security.

If you are considering a pension advance, follow these do’s and don’ts:

  • If you are asked to sign up for life insurance with the pension advance, you could end up paying the insurance premium.
  • If you are resorting to pension advances due to financial difficulties, consider getting financial coaching or counseling from a professional.
  • Don’t be fooled by patriotic-sounding names, logos, or claims of government backing.
  • Don’t give anyone access or control over your monthly pension payments.

For additional information, and learn more, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to research local non-profit credit counseling agencies and what services they provide.
  • Why is it important not to give anyone access or control over your monthly pension payment?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do people resort to pension advance loans?
  2. What are other alternatives to pension advance loans?
  3. What recommendation should you take to protect your retirement pension when considering an advance?

Caution: Car Title Loans Can Leave You Stranded

Have you seen a sign offering a car title loan—also known as a pink-slip loan, title pledge or title pawn?  These loans are use your paid-off car as collateral, and you get a small, short-term loan with a high interest rate.  You usually have to repay the loan in 15 or 30 days, and the annual percentage rate (APR) is often more than 100 percent.  If you don’t pay back the loan, the company can repossess your car—and then you’re worse off than you were before.  It’s a very expensive way to get money.

Before you decide to take out a car title loan, weigh some options.

  • Can you get a small loan from your bank, credit union or a small loan company? Even a cash advance on a credit card might cost less than a car title loan.
  • Shop for the offer with the lowest cost. Compare the APR and the finance charges, and borrow only what you can repay in time.

For additional information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask students how they can avoid costly loans like car title loans?
  • Why car title loans are considered risky and undesirable?

Discussion Questions

  1. What can consumers do if car title lenders fail to disclose all the qualifying terms associated with obtaining a loan at its advertised rate?
  2. What can government agencies do to protect consumers in the short-term lending and auto marketplaces?

Unscrupulous Debt Collectors

In January 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice sued a Texas-based Commercial Recovery System, Inc., a debt collection company that allegedly impersonated attorneys, law firm staff, judicial employees and mediators.  The company threatened people with lawsuits, seizure of their property, or wage garnishment.  All these practices are against the law.  Under federal law, debt collectors–including collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them–can’t use abusive, deceptive or unfair practices to collect from you.

For additional information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to check a local Consumer Credit Counseling Service to learn about their services provided to consumers.
  • Ask students to compile a list of places a person can call to report dishonest credit practices, get advice and help with credit problems.

Discussion Questions

  1. Which federal law(s) protect your rights if you are ever contacted by a debt collector?
  2. If you need help regaining control of your finances, what resources are available to you?

The Seven Baby Steps (Dave Ramsey)

“Get out of debt the same way you learned to walk–one step at a time.”

This article describes Dave Ramsey’s seven steps that anyone can take to get out of debt and begin to manage their personal finances.  These seven basic principles have been taught by Mr. Ramsey via radio, books, Financial Peace University, live events, and online.  Listed below are the seven steps discussed in this article.  Note:  You can get more information about each step by clicking on the “Learn More” tab.

  1. Begin by creating a $1,000 emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt using the debt snowball .
  3. Save 3 to 6 months of expenses in a savings account.
  4. Invest 15 percent of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement accounts.
  5. Create a college funding plan for your children.
  6. Pay off your home mortgage early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Ask students visit the Dave Ramsey website.
  • Discuss some or all of the seven baby steps described in this article. Reminder:  Students can get more information by clicking on the “Learn More” tab.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can the seven baby steps help you manage your personal finances?
  2. Do the steps in this article make you want to change your priorities and what’s important in your life? Justify your answer.

Newly Married with $52,000 of Debt

My Wife and I Never Discussed Money Before Getting Married–and Ended Up with $52,000 of Debt

Prior to tallying up our debt, we’d talked about traveling internationally, starting a family, and, some day retiring comfortably. There was so much we wanted out of life, but . . .”

This is an excellent article that describes what can happen when a soon-to-be-married couple doesn’t talk about finances.  Fortunately, the two people in this article–Deacon and Kim Hayes–realized they had a problem and then took steps to get their finances back on track.

Specific steps this couple took can make a big difference over time.  Among the suggestions included in this article are:

  • Writing down all your assets, debts, income, and expenses.
  • Prepare a budget and review each item for opportunities to save money.
  • Replacing a newer, expensive car with an older car.
  • Selling unwanted or unneeded items online.
  • Using any extra money to repay debt.
  • Establishing an emergency fund.
  • Saving and investing a specific amount each month.

Consider This:  Deacon Hayes–the author of this article–became a financial planner and now shares his story with his clients.

For more information, Click Here

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss why engaged couples need to discuss their finances before they get married.
  • Stress how easy it is to get in debt and how hard and how much time it takes to get out of debt.

Discussion Questions

  1. Assume you are dating someone who seems to spend more than they make. In this situation, would you continue to date this person?  Explain your answer.
  2. One of the suggestions included in this article is that people write down their assets, debts, income, and expenses. How can this suggestion help a young-married couple plan their financial future?
  3. Assume you have credit card debts and an automobile loan that total $75,000. What specific steps can you take to reduce or eliminate your debt?