When illegitimate collection agencies overstate a person’s “balance in full” (BIF) due on debts, it’s a scam called overbiffing. How can you recognize this scam, and what can you do about it? Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

It’s likely a scam if debt collectors:

  • contact you at inconvenient times or places. (They can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to it. They also can’t contact you at work if they’ve been told they can’t contact you there.)
  • threaten you, use obscene language, or harass you with multiple phone calls.
  • misrepresent the amount you owe or lie about consequences of not repaying a debt.
  • contact someone other than you (or a spouse) about the debt.

Legitimate debt collectors reach out:

  • by sending you a written “validation notice” five days before contacting you. The notice will say how much you owe, the name of the creditor, and what to do if you don’t think it’s your debt.
  • by phone, mail, email, or a text to collect a debt after the “validation notice.”

If you’re receiving debt collection calls, regardless of legitimacy, know your rights. You can contact debt collectors by sending a letter (consider using certified mail), asking for verification of the debt. If the collector is not legitimate, you can ask for contact to stop. Just remember: always be careful about sharing your personal and financial information, especially if you’re not familiar with the collector.

For more information on this scam and other alerts, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s website at ftc.gov.