Debt collectors have been using increasingly aggressive tactics in the years since the 2008 financial crisis. These tactics have been very successful in netting rogue debt collectors and scammers millions from unsuspecting consumers.
On Nov. 18 one such debt collector was put out of business. Federal agents in Georgia arrested John Todd Williams, 48, founder of debt collection agency Williams, Scott & Associates along with six other employees for allegedly running a $4.1 million debt collection scam that targeted more than 6,000 people across the United States.
According to the allegations contained in a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney the threats these companies used included:
Falsely claiming they were affiliated with the Department of Justice, the U.S. Marshals Service, or even with nonexistent government agencies such as the “Federal Government Task Force” and the “DOJ Task Force.” They falsely claimed they were “detectives” or “investigators” telling consumers they committed crimes such as “check fraud” or “depository check fraud,” and warning them that if they didn’t pay a warrant would be issued for their arrest.
Under federal law, debt collectors are barred from harassing consumers by repeatedly calling them or using threats to pressure them to pay.
From 2009 until April of this year, the debt collectors made false claims and used legal terms that sounded official but were actually meaningless to try and coerce consumers, according to the complaint.
“This scheme took advantage of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens from all fifty states,” said George Venizelos, the FBI assistant director in New York. “The defendants were nothing more than bullies with bogus badges.”
The debt collectors would read from scripts to threaten consumers. A search of WSA’s offices turned up this script used by employees:
“This is investigator _____ I calling [sic] in reference to a complaint that has been filed through the national check fraud center were [sic] that stated that they have sent correspondents [sic] to ________ as well _______ and you have not responded [sic] which has made your statute [sic] of limitations for your civil legal rights exhaust. That means that you are being pursued for one count of theft by deception and can be forwarded over to the local county for proceedings to start/”
A total and complete false representation in direct violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and numerous other federal and state laws.
If you get a call from a debt collector request a written notice of the debt. That is a basic debt collection right. If you get resistance from a debt collector about sending you written notice that is your first clue you are not dealing with a reputable company.
Get the company’s mailing address to send a cease and desist letter. If the harassment continues make a complaint with your state’s Attorney General Office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.