If you have worked hard to get rid of debt, it can be disconcerting to get a debt collection call for an obligation you do not recognize. But scammers often use this tactic because many people have enough debt that it is difficult to keep track of.

According to Nerdwallet’s 2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study, Americans had approximately $422 billion in total credit card debt at the end of 2020. If you get a call for a debt that is unfamiliar, take these steps before paying the collection agency.

Obtain valid information

Ask for the name of the person calling, the collection company he or she works for and the company’s address and phone number. You should also obtain information about the debt the collector wants you to pay, including how much debt you owe and the current creditor’s name.

Resist giving in to threats

The debt collector calling you may threaten to arrest you, take your driver’s license or inform your employer if you do not pay off the debt right then. Do not respond to threats like these and hang up and report the caller immediately.

Dispute the claim

If you believe that you do not owe the debt the collector claims, dispute the charge online or through the mail. You should do this even if you can validate the debt.

Even if you are not the victim of a debt collection scam, you should always look into debts you owe and make sure they are correct before paying. This can protect your interests and ensure you are actually making progress towards paying off your debts.