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Debt Collector Dirty Tricks

The Debt Collection Business

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Debt Collectors

At its best, debt collection is a hard business. They’re trying to force people who are already making tough choices to make different choices. To make a person give up food or insurance to pay a bill for something that’s already come and gone is hard to do. And even when the choice isn’t quite that stark, there’s always the challenge of making someone give up what they want NOW for what they used to want THEN.

On the other hand, most people do want to pay their bills, and they feel guilty and embarrassed when they don’t. The debt collectors know and use those facts regularly. You might consider efforts to trigger those feelings “dirty tricks,” but we won’t discuss them other than in certain extreme ways the debt collectors play their cards.


People who owe money also usually feel, and are, vulnerable to various bad things, and many of the dirtiest tricks use this fact against them. From a slightly different angle, one of the things that get people into debt trouble in the first place is hope or optimism – they overestimate what they can or will do or they look for an easy way out. This can make them easy suckers for scams, from get-rich-quick scams to get-out-of-debt scams. But what concerns us most for purposes of this article is that it causes them to overestimate what they can pay or for how long they can do it. Thus there’s a tendency for people to make agreements they can’t keep.

In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the tricks the debt collectors play to use the weaknesses of people in debt against them so that you can recognize and prepare for them. We also have a report that you can get for free that has many more of the worst of the tricks.

I have found that a lot of people come to us after doing some things that hurt their rights. Part of our mission is to protect some of those rights before they get lost or damaged. We want to catch people earlier in the debt cycle, in other words. If you give the wrong person money, it’s almost impossible to get it back.

A Few Preliminary Words

There are a few things I will say before getting into the scams and tricks. First, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes almost all of the tricks we discuss here illegal. But some of them are not, as we will discuss.

The FDCPA generally requires fair-dealing and honesty of the debt collectors, and it makes deception and “misleading” behaviors illegal. It also gives them certain affirmative requirements. But it applies only to “debt collectors” as that term is defined, and there is currently a lot of uncertainty about exactly what the term means and just who is a debt collector even among legitimate operators, and there are a lot of crooks out there, too.

What there is really no doubt about at all is that debt collectors, whether they are within the definition of the FDCPA or not, will do almost anything to get your money. You know that. We can only list and describe a relatively few of their tricks, but you need to develop the habit of extreme caution and skepticism towards anybody who’s trying to get you to give them some money. You need PROOF of every aspect of what they’re saying, because, as we all know, paying the wrong person a bill we really owe doesn’t do any good at all – it just means we’re going to double-pay.

No legitimate debt collector will require you to act immediately the first time you hear from them. Don’t let them hurry you into lowering your standards of proof – that’s the key to all of their other tricks.

A Few of Their Tricks

The tricks here are only a few of what they have come up with, and they will constantly be coming up with more. These are merely examples. The tricks don’t all have formal names, but I have given them names to make them easier to remember.

Asking for Post-dated Checks

Sometimes a debt collector will urge you to send a post-dated check. That is, a check with a date on it that’s different than the actual date. You think the money will be there in a week, so you write the check for next week.

Debt collectors love to get you to do this. Why?

There are some legitimate reasons, and this isn’t always a scam or dirty trick. It is a fact that people get busy, have second thoughts, or simply change their minds – especially when it comes to paying money for something that doesn’t bring them pleasure. A debt collector has a legitimate interest, assuming the debt is valid and the collector is honest (which you should almost never do), in getting your money before any of that happens. He or she has talked you into doing something, and he doesn’t want it to come undone as soon as you hang up. A post-dated check is a good way to make your intention stick.

The problem is that you cannot trust the debt collector, yourself, or the world around you with this.

You can’t trust the debt collector because most debt collectors will say anything that comes to mind to get you to do what they want. They are under intense pressure to perform, and to perform quickly. Therefore, chances are good that the debt collector will not remember – and not even try to remember – that your check is post-dated check. That will be forgotten before you hang up.

So even if by chance your check goes to the debt collector who called you, she will put the check in the pile to go to the bank immediately. And it isn’t likely the person who called you will see the check – it will automatically go out for payment when it arrives in the office.

And you can’t even trust yourself on this. If you were just trying to get the debt collector to go away, or if you made a slight miscalculation, or if something unforeseen happens – as so often happens – you will be in trouble.

Attempt to Collect from Relatives of the Dead

With few exceptions, a parent or spouse’s debts do NOT transfer to anyone else. A deceased’s debts are claims against the decedent’s estate. That means, if there’s a will, that any claimants will have to make a claim against the estate in probate. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, then in some situations the “residuary” beneficiary of the will might be liable.

If the will says, “I leave $100 to Mary and the rest to John,” John is the residuary beneficiary, and John might under some circumstances be liable for a debt. But of course it almost never happens because the creditor would have to prove a variety of things that aren’t easy to prove. Most debt collectors want nothing to do with that. They’d rather try to get you to pay.

All you need to know is that if a debt collector is asking you to pay someone else’s bills it’s probably a scam.

Debt collectors know most people do not know the law and have never thought they might owe someone else’s bills.  People who are grieving are less likely to question or oppose someone who asserts that they owe something. In other words, this scam requires catching you at a vulnerable time and taking advantage of it.

The FBI’s After You

In this scam, someone calls you up “from Washington” (or wherever) to let you know you’ve been implicated in some vague crime or misdeed. They’ve tried this one on me a couple of times, as a matter of fact, only the person was supposedly calling from the Social Security Administration to tell me my account had been “frozen” because someone was using the number to launder money.

The agent spoke fast and had a number to call for verification, but things were close to a boiling point. I was supposed to act quickly or expect the FBI to show up within the next day, or possibly hours. Of course the first thing I had to do was verify a few numbers for them…

This is obviously a criminal scam, with only the barest pretense at being debt collection when there is one – sometimes the threat is that agents are on the way to pick you up for non-payment of some debt, or whatever. The critical features are the urgency, the authority, and the threat.

The people doing this one are clearly not legitimate debt collectors, they’re criminals, but it may show up as a debt collection, and chances are good you’ve been targeted because of some perceived vulnerability. Tell these guys to take a hike.

There’s more in the report

You will find many more examples of debt collector dirty tricks in our free Bestiary of Debt Collector Dirty Tricks. You can find that by clicking here: https://yourlegallegup.com/blog/debt-collector-dirty-tricks/.


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Getting the State to do the Dirty Work

There is a disturbing trend in debt collection these days: getting the state to do the dirty work of intimidation and collection.

In some jurisdictions, notably Illinois, debt collectors are actually managing to get people who supposedly owe them money thrown into jail. This is obviously a dirty trick and happens primarily because the debt collectors are managing to set cases for trial where attendance in mandatory; whereas in most civil cases failure to show up for trial results in a default judgment, in these cases the judge issues a warrant for arrest.

The subject of this Scam Alert, however, is a little different. A scam involves trickery and deception, and that is what is happening in Missouri and elsewhere. In some places, Payday loan companies and other vulture companies are issuing short-term loans. What they do is require a post-dated check for the repayment.

Of course if you have a job – and keep it – and the post-dated check is made with that in mind, then when the money rolls in, you just pay off the debt.

Of course you do it at heart-breaking interest rates, but at least theoretically that is what you bargained for, and there’s no real confusion about what the deal is costing.

The problem comes in if something keeps you from getting that money you expected. In most loans, if you fail to make a payment you can be sued, and generally it is not a fun thing to be sued. If you have written a post-dated check, however, if you fail to make the payment (and cover the check), you are immediately subject to a civil penalty doubling the value of the check (in Missouri), and you may also be prosecuted to passing “bad checks.” Many lawmen are willingly allowing themselves to become the hitmen for these loan companies.

This is a “scam” because no one tells the people borrowing the money that failure to pay could result in an instant doubling of the loan or criminal prosecution, so payday loans, which charge such a high rate to account for the fact that people so often cannot make the payments, gets an extra level of security against default. And foists the risk of criminal enforcement onto people who don’t know what is happening.

It is also a perversion of the law.

Bad check laws were created to protect people who trusted the people writing them checks – writing a check is, legally, a sort of guarantee that the check-writer has the money to pay for the check in the bank at the moment the check is written.

Writing a check without the money in the bank is a type of fraud. But when a payday loan company accepts a post-dated check in exchange for a loan, they know the money is not there. There is no fraud when the check is written – and fraud requires that the intent to rip off the victim be present at the time the action which does rip them off (writing the check) is done. What’s happening here is that people who made a mistake about having money at a certain point in the future are being thrown into jail for that mistake. And the people on the other side of the transaction – the payday lenders – are perfectly aware that their customers have trouble with money – that’s who they target.

It is morally totally wrong for this to happen. But it is happening. So the lesson is, never pay for a loan – any loan under any circumstances – with a post-dated check. If the money isn’t in the bank, do not use a check.

Four Sneaky Tricks of Debt Collectors

Debt collectors make their money by scaring or tricking, people into forfeiting their rights to defend themselves. Often they will let you think you have come to some sort of agreement with them to avoid court (and judgment), they won’t work with you to accommodate your schedule, and in general try to trick, intimidate and scare you into staying away from court. Then they get default judgments. Here are some of their more common tricks. Check out the Litigation Manual and materials for things you can do if debt collectors try these on you.

Don’t let them trick you out of your right to defend yourself. If you fight, you have an excellent chance to win – if you don’t show up and they get a default judgment you may find your wages or bank accounts garnished before you know it.

Debt Collector Dirty Tricks

Debt Collector Dirty Tricks to Get You to Default

Have you been tricked into skipping your court date? or are they telling you you don’t need to be there? It might be a trick. Debt collectors make the huge majority of their money  – almost all of it – off of people who give up and do not defend themselves. They know it and do everything they can to make people default – and sometimes they use extremely questionable tactics. This video tells you how to recognize tricks and how to respond.





Four Sneaky Tricks to Get You to Default

Four Sneaky Tricks by Debt Collectors to Get You to Default

Debt collectors make their money by scaring, or tricking, people into forfeiting their rights to defend themselves. Often they will let you think you have come to some sort of agreement with them to avoid court (and judgment), they won’t work with you to accommodate your schedule, and general try to intimidate and scare you into staying away from court. Here are some of their more common tricks. Check out the Debt Defense System and materials for things you can do if debt collectors try these on you.



Four Dirty Tricks and What to Do about Them

Debt collectors use many dirty tricks to try to scam, threaten, trick, or intimidate you into paying. This video goes into a few of those, and what you can do about them.

In this video, we discuss four tricks and point you to the sections of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act that makes them illegal.

It is illegal for the debt collector to threaten to take legal actions that it cannot legally do. This would include threats of imprisonment, public humiliation, or garnishment or seizure of your wages.

It is also illegal for them to communicate untrue information or, where you have disputed the debt, to report the debt without mentioning that you did dispute.

Sometimes debt collectors will pretend to be various types of authority figures – and sometimes they will send a collection letter that looks either like a lawsuit or a judgment or other information from a court. Any form of deception about who is sending the letter to you, whether that deception takes the form of an actual lie or simply deceptive looking information, would also violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If you think the debt collector has violated the law, or if you need to defend yourself from a lawsuit, be sure to check out our Debt Defense System – it will give you what you need to understand what you are facing and the help you need to defend yourself effectively from the debt collectors.

Check out our Guide to Legal Research and Analysis

If You Are Already Being Sued


If you are already being sued, you probably should not sign up for the course and wait for anything. You need action now. You should be doing things to protect yourself NOW. You can beat them – it’s mostly a question of knowing what you need to do and doing that thing throughout the lawsuit, while at the same time not doing the things you should not do, until you either make them go away or win at trial. It sounds simple, and it is – if you know what you’re doing.  You can no those things with the Debt Defense System and get help doing the right things while avoiding the worng ones.

I have had a great deal of experience both as a litigator and web master and have realized that almost every person representing himself or herself in a debt case would do much better if (1) they have an opportunity, preferably on a regular basis, to talk to other people who can help them with insights and information; and (2) a lot of the work done for them. The Debt Defense System does that. When you buy the Debt Defense System, you will also get a membership which both allows you to use the full resources of Your Legal Leg Up’s website and participate in our weekly teleconferences where members speak to each other and Your Legal Leg Up’s staff.

Just think about how it will be, first when you walk away from the debt collectors who have been making your life miserable, and then as you move towards a life of greater freedom and happiness – free from debt, and free to build your future.

The Debt Defense System is a service designed to give you all the materials and support you will need to defend yourself from either the debt collectors or original creditors without having to hire a lawyer.

If You Are Not Already Being Sued

If you are not already being sued, and want to try to negotiate with the debt collectors or creditors to clear up your credit report or make sure they do not sue you, then you will want our Debt Negotiation System.

Not all negotiation and settlement happens in court, you know. It is possible to contact many creditors and debt collectors to work things out without a law suit. But – whether there is a lawsuit or not, all negotiations occur “within the shadow of the law.” That is, in order to negotiate effectively, you need to know what their rights are, and what your rights are, in the law. What can they do to you if you do not settle? And what can you do to them? Knowing the answers to these questions helps you handle the fear and uncertainty that haunts so many people as they try to get a grip on their financial lives. You can find the answers you need.

And after you find the answers that lie behind the debts, you still need to know what to say and how to say it. You’ll find plenty of help with that, too. You see, it makes a large difference who you’re talking to and where in the debt collection process you are. We do not offer empty formulas, but rather solid understanding of what they are after, what you might want or get… and a few suggestions about how to say things so you’ll get them.

Identity Theft Affidavits – Debt Collector Dirty Trick, Part 1

Sometimes debt collectors will attach an “identity theft affidavit” to the discovery they give you and “request” or suggest that you fill it out and file it with authorities. Or they invite you to send it to the debt collector so that it can file it with the authorities. Sometimes they try to get you to believe there is something in the discovery process that forces you to fill out such an affidavit. Sometimes they try to get you to believe they’re “just trying to help.”

They aren’t trying to help, and you don’t have to fill out such an affidavit. They want to make you think that denying you owe them money could turn into or be a crime.

I believe this practice violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and makes both the debt collector and its attorney liable to you under the Act.

Attaching an Identity Theft Affidavit violates the FDCPA

Attaching the ID theft affidavit violates the FDCPA because it deceptively attempts to create the impression that they can require that such an affidavit be filed. They want you to feel that you must swear – to the police – that your identity has been stolen or give up any claim that it may have been done. It increases the general “pressure” already created by the litigation itself. This exerts improper and unconscionable pressure on the debt defendant to give up on his defense and capitulate to the debt collector.

Let’s Get this Straight

If you allege that your identity has been stolen and maintain this as a defense to the action against you, you will eventually probably have to swear to it under oath. Eventually. If the matter goes to trial.  Doing so falsely could subject you to criminal punishment. But lying in such testimony is probably not as big a deal as lying to law enforcement and filing a false charge. You’re less likely to be caught or punished for “mere” perjury – not that we suggest it, of course. Exerting pressure on you to file such a report is an attempt to raise the stakes of the litigation. Since most people understand that filing a report with the police is serious and could involve repercussions, they are hesitant to do so whether it would be justified or not.

And there are times when someone has stolen your identity in a way which would defeat your liability where you would not want to involve the police. Nor do you have to.

No Right to the Affidavit

The discovery process does not give any party the right to require another party to make a report to any governmental agency. The only way you could be forced to take such an action is by court order (possibly, under certain circumstances unlikely to occur in debt litigation – and certainly not as part of the discovery process). Discovery is a process of asking about and providing answers (or objections) to questions about documents or other information you have in your possession or control. Sometimes – but rarely – this can include making “compilations” of particulary complex data or records. Never can it require you to create or send a report of any sort to someone unrelated to the litigation (i.e., the police).


Knowing that forcing you to make a report on identity theft is far beyond their legitimate powers, the debt collectors will sometimes merely “include” it in their discovery packets – inviting you to draw the conclusion that you must file it with the police. In the case of a represented party against an unrepresented, unsophisticated party, this is probably an unethical practice for the lawyer to engage in. It is deliberately deceptive and blatantly tries to create a false impression on the part of someone vulnerable to misrepresentation.

Attempt to Collect a Debt

The FDCPA makes any debt collector liable when it uses unfair or deceptive techniques in its efforts to collect a debt originally owed to someone else. Simple attaching an ID theft affidavit to discovery is utterly deceptive, as it tries to take advantage of an unsophisticated litigant’s lack of knowledge – and fear – of the legal process to cause it to do something the debt collector has no right to ask. And of course this exerts pressure on the consumer to pay if for any reason he or she cannot truthfully file such a report. Making a false report to the police authorities is a crime. Being unwilling to file one makes no statement about whether or not the debt is legitimate or owed to the debt collector – but it knows that unsophisticated pro se litigants will think that it does. So these litigants will feel pressure to give up their cases – pressure applied under the disguise of the legal process but deriving no actual power from it.

That is the essence of an unfair debt collection practice.

This is Part 1 of this Article. Click here for part 2.