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Debt collectors sometimes pursue false claims

Dealing with a debt collection agency that uses abusive, illegal tactics is bad enough. Imagine if you do not even owe the money in the first place.

Maybe you already paid off the debt long ago, or it is a case of mistaken identity. An unscrupulous debt collector will continue to pursue payment anyway, perhaps bullying victims into paying the “debt.”

A woman from another state says a Los Angeles-based debt collection agency called the Lincoln Group nearly convinced her to pay a phantom bill. The company told her she owed about $1,100 on a JCPenny credit card, and that fighting it would cost her more than twice that amount. She was told she could settle the debt immediately for $607.

Just one problem. The Lincoln Group was not looking at the woman’s JCPenny account. It referred to an account that opened in 2008, while the woman did not open one until 2013 or so. But by having some fragmentary information about the woman, the company nearly convinced her that she had a forgotten debt she needed to take care of.

It turned out the woman did owe money on her JCPenny account, but just $158. And a different debt collector was handling it, not The Lincoln Group, which has been the subject of numerous complaints the California Better Business Bureau.

People who use credit cards are expected to follow the rules, but there are rules for debt collectors as well. If an agency breaks a rule, it may be liable for damages under the law.