What do I Owe you?
August 8, 2014 9:27 AM   Subscribe

My father just got a call from a number that he didn't know. They asked for him by name, then they proceeded to ask for the last 4 of his ssn. He said he wasn't going to give them that info and asked who they were and why were they calling. They said that they couldn't tell him until he confirmed his identity. He said no. After making the caller mad they hung up.

He then looked up the number and it is a collection agency called F.H. Cann. He owes no debts. He saw on their website that they collect student loan debt. He was a cosigner on my student loan, but that is up to date. Is there a scam here? They told him he HAD to call the number they gave him or he would be in trouble. The number they gave him was the same one they were calling from.
posted by MayNicholas to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think it is bs, but if they call back, tell them to send whatever information they have or a request for information in writing. Do not give them the address. Tell them to use whatever they have on file if they ask.
posted by 724A at 9:35 AM on August 8, 2014 [20 favorites]

They told him he HAD to call the number they gave him or he would be in trouble.

Yeah right.

Whether this is a scam or just a particularly inept collection agency, your father might want to get a credit report to make sure there's nothing amiss as far as liens he didn't know about or identity theft or whatever.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:40 AM on August 8, 2014 [10 favorites]

Sounds like phishing to me. They have his name and number from something related to your loan, and are trying to get more. Your dad did right to refuse their requests.
posted by ubiquity at 9:41 AM on August 8, 2014 [14 favorites]

Your dad can tell them to contact him by mail with proof of debt and to stop calling. If this is a legitimate debt (or legitimate error, as in someone committing identity fraud), your father will then get the information he needs in writing.

But if it was a legitimate collection attempt they wouldn't get mad, so whatever. He can ignore it until he receives something by mail. They know everything they need in order to send him something. I moved 3 months ago and all the bullshit collections and bullshit credit offers have already found me again.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:44 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was taking care of my dad the past two years and got to witness the level of BS that comes via phone and postal mail. (I can honestly say he never was on the Internet, ever, but you can imagine the junk coming that way.)

The phone calls and postal mail is very sophisticated and woe be on the folks that are not as savvy. He took great pleasure in 'yanking the chain' of the people who would call. As much as I would beg him to just hang up, or ask him to be removed, he would talk them while never giving any info. He would then wonder why he got so many phone calls like this. 2+2 Dad - they share lists and you stay on the phone - just hang up.

That is one aspect. But the stuff that comes through the postal mail is impressive. I have spent a fair amount of time in a couple instances trying to peel layers back on how the scam would work. Again, those who don't understand and reply, return the envelope or actually pay XX so they can get YY - I can see how they are snookered. The mailings are not cheap and look official.

Look out for the elderly - best as I can tell this stuff is the wild west, how this is allowed and not regulated better is beyond me. In several instances I forwarded items to the Attorneys General for that particular US State.

posted by fluffycreature at 9:45 AM on August 8, 2014

FYI I have had this happen to me and it was a collections agency. So it's worth him checking his credit report.

Having said that, when they do it this way there is no way for you to know that they are legit. Therefore I believe he'd be entirely justified in refusing to give over identifying information over the phone to someone who has called him, especially if they can't/won't prove who they are. In that circumstance I recommend asking for e.g. a website that he can verify and then contact them through, with a reference or case number.

If they won't do that, there is no reason not to assume they are a scammer (even though they "may" in fact be legitimate).
posted by Drexen at 9:48 AM on August 8, 2014

(Actually, given how easy it is to spoof a website, a mailed letter including information that proves who they are is a perfectly reasonable thing for him to request).
posted by Drexen at 9:50 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

But if it was a legitimate collection attempt they wouldn't get mad

Collections people absolutely will be dickbags about it and will get pissy with you when you tell them to get lost. But I agree that this doesn't seem legit, and if it IS legit then they are really terrible at their jobs because OP, your dad did 100% the right thing in refusing to give out his SSN over the phone to some random aggro asshole.
posted by elizardbits at 9:53 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's not necessarily a scam - a creditor/collections agency cannot discuss debts until they have verified they are speaking to right person, and that the last 4 digits is one way they can do it.

I had this happen a few weeks ago.

He should definitely check his credit report - although if they just started calling, it may not have popped on there yet. He should also check his accounts and make sure that all the autopays have gone through and are working.

When they call back - and they probably will - he should refuse to use his SSN and use his address to verify his identity. Then he should ask who the debt is from and why. He is right to be leery, but he also wants to get on top of this.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:59 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Might be phishing, might be legit. He should check his credit reports and maybe sign up for credit monitoring for a while.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:06 AM on August 8, 2014

Best answer: 1. Order his 3 free credit reports.

2. If they call again, say something like "Under the FDCPA, you are required to notify me in writing of any debt within 5 days of first contact. Please direct all correspondence to my mailing address on file. Do not call this number again, or I will file a complaint under the FDCPA." Even if all of the parts are not applicable to your dad's situation (if any), legalese usually scares them away for a while.

3. If they call again, get a lawyer; sue them for $1000.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:10 AM on August 8, 2014 [21 favorites]

I have had a similar thing happen to me, and it turned out to be a (legitimate) collections agency. It was for a PayPal charge I was not aware of because it was a case of identity theft -- someone had set up a PayPal account under my name without my knowledge.
posted by Librarypt at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2014

He is not in "big trouble." I have actually been in relatively "big trouble" financially. When the police came to my house to deliver official court papers (I think on two occasions), they were perfectly polite. Even at that point, I had like 30 days to call the collection agency and cut a deal before it went to actual court. I never went to actual court (maybe I should have -- maybe the judge would have declared me bankrupt, I don't know) but, you know, given how not threatening it was when the police showed up at my house with debt-related legal stuff, you don't need to get your blood pressure up over this.

That being said, yeah, get a credit report and see if there is something fishy going on, re identity theft. That is big, big business these days.
posted by Michele in California at 10:27 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This specific company has been called out for "casting a wide net" by using unconventional (and inaccurate) means to identify debtors. So there's a very good chance they're just looking for someone whose name is similar to your dad's or something like that. Just throwing stuff at a wall to see if anything sticks.

Either way, get a credit report like everybody says and see if there's anything hinky in there. Also, tell them to stop calling and log any calls they make after that. They're not allowed to do that.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:35 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

This sounds a lot like what happened to someone we know, except in our story someone got bullied into handing over a big chunk of money they shouldn't have. Sounds like your dad has a little more street smarts, good for him.

Lots of good suggestions here, checking credit report particularly. Mostly chiming in to nth the idea that collection agencies are unscrupulous scum.
posted by mattu at 10:54 AM on August 8, 2014

Just for reference when I worked in mortgage collections we absolutely did have to verify the last 4 of someone's social before speaking to them. Address was not sufficient, as someone else in the household or a relative could easily answer the phone and this was a very firm and fireable policy offense. He should definitely check his credit report. However, if he really doesn't have any student loans and yours is current, it's either a scam or a mix-up to be remedied. Only way to know is check credit.
posted by celtalitha at 11:01 AM on August 8, 2014

Also, the FDCPA laws do not require a collector to stop contacting you simply because you verbally told them to. It has to be in writing, even per melissasaurus's link.
posted by celtalitha at 11:03 AM on August 8, 2014

Yeah, possibly just a "wide net" approach than an active scam. (Not that that excuses such tactics.) I got some calls several years ago from a collection agency looking for someone who had my (fairly common) first and last name, but a different middle initial. Also they were looking for his wife; I've never been married.

When they asked for the last four digits of my SSN, I told them I wasn't going to give them that, and how about they tell me the last four digits of the person they were looking for, and I'll tell them if it matches mine or not? Surprisingly, they did, I responded they were not the last four digits of my SSN (not giving any further information).

Got a handful of calls from them, but eventually they stopped bugging me.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seniors, elderly, Golden Agers if you are into sick humor, however you term them they are targeted because they tend to be trusting and likely to fall for a scam. One ploy is to say you are busy right now and ask for a call back number. The scammer will probably refuse that request and say s/he will call back later. Checking your dad's credit status would be a good idea.
posted by Cranberry at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2014

I had the exact same experience as your dad, right down to the arguing with the caller about how there was no way I was going to give them identifying information over the phone. I told them to contact me in writing, and I never heard from them again.
posted by medusa at 12:09 PM on August 8, 2014

Best answer: F.H. Cann does debt claims. There's a lot of debate around the fact that these debt collection groups don't do enough investigation as to who they are targeting. Generally, they only have a name to go by. So if they are looking for "John Smith" and your dad's name happens to match, you'll get a call. So will every other John Smith the debt collectors can identify. The request for SSN is likely their lazy-man method of further identifying your father from the myriad other John Smiths out there. In essence, they are asking your dad to do the investigative work for them. You are undoubtedly very safe in refusing them any information they can't gather for themselves.
posted by ScaredOfWidths at 1:02 PM on August 8, 2014

My bank does this -- they say where they're calling from, but then they insist on my FULL social security number before telling me what the call is about. I don't care if they are the CEO of my bank calling about an error in my favor -- I don't give it out over the phone. I tell them that if it's a very serious matter, I'll wait for their letter in the mail.

Interestingly, they do actually get mean about it sometimes. So it could be a legit caller, just with a crappy way of doing business. Don't do business crappily, just say tell him to say he'll look forward to their formal notice in the mail and hang up.
posted by mibo at 3:29 PM on August 8, 2014

I went through this several times because I share a common name with a person who got into trouble and at one point worked at my very large company. They'd call, ask for and insist that since they were connected to me! I must be the person that they were looking for (never mind that about 100,000 people worked there, or had worked there).
posted by wotsac at 6:24 PM on August 8, 2014

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