Distinguishing the Debt Collectors: Legitimate or Fake?

Distinguishing the Debt Collectors: Legitimate or Fake?

March 10th, 2020 - Telecom, Identity and Protection

By Lavinia Kennedy, Director of Product Management, TNS

When it comes to debt collection, bad actors can often mirror the practices of real companies, making it increasingly difficult for consumers to identify the difference between real calls from legitimate debt collectors and fake calls from scam artists.

The key to snuffing out fraudsters is data. High-level call patterns and crowd-sourced feedback are two examples of rich data sets that help identify the intent of the caller. A company that can quickly analyze this data can help restore consumer trust.

Fraudulent actors and legitimate debt collectors behave in similar ways. For starters, they both use the same calling number for approximately three months. After this time, the numbers enter a callout pool – a collection of phone numbers that have been negatively marked via analytics.

Both scammers and legitimate collectors tend to only call consumers during business hours. Legitimate debt collectors are subject to hefty penalties should they make calls late at night or on Sundays.

While the similarities are noticeable, consumers should pay attention to call patterns to distinguish between bad actors and legitimate debt collectors. Scammers typically only call their target once. Meanwhile, debt collectors need to establish an actual connection with the person indebted, resulting in multiple calls per week.

Other data sets are necessary to provide further clarification. One way is through crowd sourcing, where subscriber feedback is another data layer that refines the sentiment of the caller. After collecting significant subscriber feedback, an analysis offers insights into specific calling behavior patterns. These insights include:

  • Legitimate debt collectors typically receive negative feedback as the subscriber is very unlikely to submit positive reports.
  • Scammers and low-reputed debt collectors often use aggressive auto-dialer schemes. Crowd-sourced feedback can highlight these types of calls. When consumers report that they experience “dead air” that typically is a marker for a scam call
  •  When monitoring call patterns, individual subscribers report that they receive a significant number of calls per week from scammers.
  • There are different kinds of content per type of caller. Subscribers can provide text-based commentary that indicates the type of scam (i.e., “IRS” or “Sweepstakes Winner”) while collections agencies are often flagged for using harassing language throughout the call.

In addition, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has tips on how to identify legitimate debt collectors and scammers and how to protect yourselves.  The warning signs of a scammer are:

  • Withholds information from you.
  • Pressures you to pay by money transfer or prepaid card
  • Falsely threatens you with jail time or poses as a government official
  • Says they will tell family, friends and an employer
  • You don’t recognize the debt the person claims you owe money for
  • Asks for sensitive personal information

These are just a few of the characteristics that determine the difference between scammers and legitimate debt collectors. In order to be successful, a telecom provider must have multiple data sources and utilize the feedback from crowd-sourcing efforts.

TNS has insights from billions of calls to help protect consumers from emerging robocall tactics and trends. Even with all that data, it is extremely difficult to predict robocall scams as fraudulent actors rapidly evolve their tactics and targets to evade detection efforts.

So, while carriers do commit to deploying the latest innovative solutions to protect their consumers, it’s important to remember that combating robocalls requires a multifaceted strategy. The bad actors and scammers employ aggressive tactics. But carriers and companies like TNS are committed to restoring trust in calling.

About TNS Call Guardian

TNS analyzes robocall data from more than one billion daily call events across hundreds of telecom providers. Because of this volume of data, TNS extracts insights on emerging robocaller trends and tactics. While it is difficult to predict what the next major robocall scam will be, we do know this: scammers continue to rapidly evolve their tactics and targets to evade detection efforts. This means consumers must remain vigilant when it comes to suspicious incoming calls, and carriers must continue to commit to deploying innovative solutions to protect their subscribers. Find details for your appropriate TNS representative on our contact page.

Find details for your appropriate TNS representative on our contact page