Bryan Cohen Jan. 21, 2014, 2:40pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned Ohio consumers on Friday about phony calls in which callers claim the consumers owe money.

DeWine said his office received more than 2,400 complaints related to collections last year, including hundreds involving potential debt collection scams.

"It can be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a con artist, because some con artists are very convincing," DeWine said. "It's also tempting to want to pay right away to avoid problems, but it's important to get verification of the debt. Paying a scammer won't solve any problems."

Consumers taken advantage of by debt collection scams typically report losing between $200 and $300. Some consumers report losing thousands of dollars.

A debt collection scam often starts with a phone call from someone who says the recipient is in default on a loan. The caller then threatens to have the consumer thrown in jail unless the recipient pays immediately, typically by prepaid money card or wire transfer. The caller ends up not being a legitimate debt collector and any money sent by the consumer will be lost.

Under the terms of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, third-party debt collectors are required to send a letter within five days after first contacting a consumer by phone. The letter must include the amount of money owed, the amount of time the consumer has to dispute the debt and the lender to whom the debt is owed.

Consumers may also request the validation of a debt by sending a letter to the collector.

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