By: Jeffrey Lapin

Lapin Law Offices urges consumers to protect themselves against phantom debt collectors. A phantom debt collector is a “debt collector” who attempts to collect on a debt that never existed or that you do not legally owe. They may also be known as “fake debt collectors” or “false debt collectors.. As we recently posted, the FTC filed a lawsuit against phantom debt collectors who allegedly collected over $5 million dollars from U.S. consumers. In that case, the alleged phantom debt collectors obtained information about people when they applied for online payday loans. The people who paid these phantom debt collectors did do based on threats of lawsuits, going to jail or the loss of their job.


Phantom, fake or false debt collectors typically fall within one of three categories:

  • You do not owe the debt collector any money;
  • You owe money on a debt but it is for an amount, even including interest and late fees, less than the amount being collected; or
  • You legitimately owe money but the collector does not have the authority to collect upon the debt.

It is this third type of phantom debt collectors that are the hardest to detect.


A Magnifying Glass

It may be difficult to identify whether you are contacted by a legitimate or a phantom debt collector as both may have some of your personal information, like a bank account number. Here are some tips to help spot a phantom or fake debt collectors:

  • You do not recognize the loan or debt that you are being called about;
  • Refuses to identify the original creditor;
  • The debt is not listed on your credit report;
  • The amount of the debt is considerably more than you could possibly owe;
  • Refuses to give you their name, mailing address or phone number;
  • Asks for personal, financial or other sensitive information that either the debtor should know or would have no reason to know; 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; and/or
  • Claims they are not governed by or aware of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).


If you have any question about whether the debt collector is legitimate, do not give out any of your personal, financial or other sensitive information. Besides trying to collect on a phantom debt, many of these phantom debt collectors will use your information to commit identity theft. If you believe you are being contacted by a phantom debt collectors here are some suggestions:

  • Ask the caller for his or her name, company, street address, and telephone number.
  • Request a written “validation notice” of the debt, which a legitimate debt collector must provide you within 30 days of your request and that must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the FDCPA.
  • Check your credit report to see if the debt is listed for the amount claimed.
  • If the caller gives you the address, send a letter to the caller and demand they quit calling you. Under the FDCPA, legitimate debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter for your records.
  • Contact the original creditor and ask whether the debt was assigned to the debt collector.


If you are contacted be a phantom debt collector for a debt that you do not owe, hang up the phone and immediately contact the FTC and your state Attorney General’s office. In addition, if you have been harassed, intimidated or abused by the caller, contact Lapin Law Offices to see if your rights have been violated and whether you might be entitled to money damages.



Lapin Law OfficesLapin Law Offices represents consumers harassed or abused by debt collectors and those whose rights have been violated under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). You can learn more about your rights by calling us at 402-421-8033 (Lincoln), 888-525-8819 (Toll Free) or through our websites: Lapin Law Offices or