Sorry for the Meghan Trainor reference there, but it’s true.
The Associated press reports that the country is facing an epidemic of unscrupulous debt collectors willing to pose as law enforcement and threaten arrest to squeeze dollars out of Americans, a top prosecutor said as he announced the arrests of seven people who worked for an Atlanta-area company.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the abusive practices have become so widespread that even a top FBI official in New York City got a call.
“This has become something of an epidemic,” Bharara told a recent news conference.
He described the workers at the defunct Williams, Scott & Associates, LLC in Norcross, Georgia, as “ruthlessly persistent” as they badgered people in all 50 states from 2009 through April, collecting more than $4 million from over 6,000 victims.
He said the workers threatened people with imminent arrest unless they paid debts they sometimes didn’t even owe.
The company was shut down after the Federal Trade Commission brought a civil action against it earlier this year.
But Richard Frankel, a top FBI official in New York, said the workers quickly opened another company under a different name and were operating at the time of their arrests.
Frankel, who recently received a call at his FBI office from an abusive debt collection agency claiming it was the “IRS,” said the defendants in the scam unveiled Tuesday were “bullies with badges. The only problem was the badges were bogus.”
According to a recent criminal complaint, the employees falsely claimed they worked for, or were in contact with, the Justice Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and sheriffs’ departments. It said victims were sometimes falsely told they would be arrested and be forced to surrender their drivers’ licenses if they did not call back or pay specified amounts immediately.
The employees also sent documents meant to look like they were sanctioned by the government, according to court papers.
Unfortunately, this kind of blatantly illegal behavior is extremely widespread and common.
I have had many clients report to me that the collector calling on the phone has told them to wait there because they were having the sheriff coming out to arrest them unless they made a payment. Unbelievable!
It must work because some debt collectors keep doing it.
Debt collectors thrive on fear. They know that if they can make their targets afraid enough that they will get payments.
My first advice to my clients is, “Don’t let them scare money out of you.”
That is to say that if a collector could do something to you, they would. They wouldn’t have to threaten you, they would just do what they could do. Whether it be a wage garnishment or bank levy, they would just do it and bypass the threats. Debt collectors threaten you because at that moment they have no other recourse.
Once the creditor knows you aren’t afraid of them, they get really upset generally because they know that you know that they can’t do anything to you.
If you are ever threatened like this, ask for their name, phone number, and address. I guarantee they won’t give it to you. They may hang up, or they may double-down on the threats. They won’t give you this information because they know what they are doing is illegal.
That’s when you can have some fun!
Here is the script I give my clients:
Oh no, you’re going to have me arrested?! Ok, I’m right here. I’m looking out my window. Where are the police? I’m waiting right here for them, but I don’t see them. How long should I wait for them? I don’t see them. You said they were on the way. You must have lied. Why are you a liar?
Gets them every time! I guarantee that at that point they’ll hang up because they know they’re wasting their time trying to scare you because you’re not scared.
The point is to mess with them as badly as they’re trying to mess with you.
So don’t be afraid of debt collectors, especially the ones who will lie, cheat, and steal to get your money.
I will say that not all collectors are this bad. If a debt collector is being reasonable and respectful to you, then please be reasonable and respectful to them. Don’t escalate the conversation unless it’s called for by their behavior.
That doesn’t mean to give them any money just because they ask nicely. And never give a debt collector access to any of your bank accounts! Ever!
There are remedies to this kind of threatening behavior. Call us to find out what they are.
But first and foremost-don’t fall for these illegal scare tactics. They’re illegal, and their just downright wrong.
How Bakersfield and Temecula Bankruptcy Lawyer Scott Bell can help
If you have found yourself in unmanageable debt, but are still hesitant to file for bankruptcy, come discuss it with us with a free consultation. You can reach us at (661) 243-1737 or (951) 296-6775. You can also speak with us directly through the Live Chat feature of our website.
Don’t let your debt ruin your life. There is a way out. Let us help.