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A close friend got a call from someone unknown asking for her current address. She wisely refused, and after some go around they said they had bought a past due payday loan that she was responsible for. They had her old address (3 years ago) and work phone number. She has never had a payday loan.

Scam or identity theft? What, if any, proactive actions should be taken?

She hung up without getting the company name or anything as she was working on a job site and did not have any privacy.

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Do not provide any personal information. If the debt is not yours, ask the caller to provide all the identifying information they have over the phone to verify whether they have your information, or are just following up on similar names. Even if they have information that is yours, do not provide more information. Always make them tell you what they know. If they provide information that is not yours, simply state that it is not your information and politely end the call. If they persist in calling you, there are local agencies you can report them to.

If they have your information, then ask for all of the details of the debt -- who is it owed to, when was the debt incurred, what was the original amount of the debt, what is the current balance, when was the last activity on the account, what is their relation to creditor.

Once you know the creditor, you can contact them directly for more information. It is possible they may have written off the account and closed it, selling it to a debt collector in order to get some sort of return on debt.

If they truly have a debt that is yours, and you did not incur it, then you will need to file a police report for a case of identity theft. Be prepared for some scrutiny.

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It may be a scam.

But it also may be a company trying to find a person with the same or similar name. They may have followed a trail to her old address, and still not have the correct person. They bought number of old debts at a large discount, and are trying to track down any money they can find.

It is best to ignore it, especially if they know it isn't their debt. If they start providing more proof then get interested. If they keep contacting them tell them there is no business relationship and they should stop.

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    You have to be careful about ignoring debt collection calls. Even if they are matching the name incorrectly you don't want it winding up (also mistakenly) on your credit report. I would suggest sending something in writing saying they have the wrong person via certified mail. – JohnFx Feb 9 '15 at 19:57
  • Yep. Know your rights. Send them a certify letter demanding that they prove that the debt is yours (or hers). If they can't, there's nothing they can do. The best they're hoping for is that they can scare you into paying. – Bigbio2002 Feb 10 '15 at 15:42
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I can only speak for germany/europe.

Inkasso companies/lawyer would write a letter with a bill, those letters have register numbers. If in doubt, one would call the company, ask who is the debtor/what is the origin of the bill.

I certainly would not react on a phone call.

However, if an official entity or lawyer is contacting you, you have to take action asap, at least calling them.

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