For at least the last four years, possibly longer, a group has been calling former payday loan applicants advising them that they have defrauded a bank and are now being sued for non-payment of a loan. The callers will claim to be calling on behalf of an attorney's office (name varies), the Dept. of Law and Investigation, ACS, or other similar combinations below:
United Legal Processing Division
Crime Monitoring Services
Monetary Crime Division
U.S. National Bank
Attorney General’s Office (usually in California)
American Legal Services
Affidavit Consolidation Services (ACS)
You will be threatened with arrest, a costly trial and possibly worse. In no shape, way or form can you be arrested for non-payment on a consumer debt. Do not believe these threats, as they are without merit and cannot be carried out in the manner they allege.
Who are they?
In the past when pressed by law enforcement for an address, the callers have provided the following information:
David Morgan and Associates
Morgan & Associates
1155 Northwest 85th Street
Wintergarden, Florida 33150
(Address is likely invalid)
The collector's MO matches a once legit collections agency called Ellis Crosby & Associates. Here are some links on them:
They have been previously fined over $1.3 million for various violations. They have been known to use phone banks in India to make their calls, which more or less coincides with the difficult to understand accent many of us detect when we are contacted.
The last time this group went by any "official" name was back in 2008:
Ellis Crosby & Associates / Douglas & Morgan Associates
4494 Southside Boulevard Suite #200
Jacksonville Florida 32216
Phone: 800-928-3536 / (904) 928-3536
(Address is likely invalid)
There are NUMEROUS consumer alerts out against this group of individuals:
http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/press/ ... lls_likely_orig
http://www.collectionscreditrisk.com/news/rho ... -3002135-1.html
On July 15th, 2010 a Public Awareness Bulletin was sent out by Missouri Information Analysis Center.
"..received reports from individuals in Ohio and Illinois reference suspicious telephone calls they received. In both instances, the callers are reporting that a voicemail is received from a man, with a Middle Eastern accent, identifying himself as an officer working with the Financial Crimes Unit. The message indicates that the reason for the call concerns a loan made by the receiver or someone in the receiver's family. The voicemail requests that a return call be made and a telephone number is provided. When a return call is made, the caller is asked to provide personal identifying information such as their date of birth and social security number.
Reports indicate that the calls are frequent and persistent and that they even threaten arrest or legal action if information or money is not provided. It appears that the individuals making these calls may have access to some records connecting individuals and their relatives. Missouri does not have a Financial Crimes Unit and all indications are that this is a fictitious agency. If you receive a similar phone call, please be advised that it is a scam and please contact your local law enforcement agency or the Missouri Information Analysis Center at 866-362-6422."
Do not supply the callers with any additional information. Inform them you have reported them to law enforcement and hang up. If you haven't already, go ahead and report the calls to local law enforcement, your state's Attorney General and beyond. Look up the local Secret Service branch's information in your area and get in contact with an agent there.
If you ever applied for a cash advance online, your information is out there.
Possible sources for the breach of your privacy are:
* The scammers obtained your information from Teletrack - a reporting agency used by many cash advance lenders to determine their risk lending to you. The service is able to tell cash advance lenders if you have existing loans with other companies, for example. Many state laws prohibit borrowers from having more than two cash advances out at the same time.
* The scammers created their own fake payday loan application site. People looking for a cash advance went to the site and applied, thus freely providing the scammers with their information for malicious use at a later time.
* The scammers were able to get into the database(s) of cash advance lenders - probable targets being Sonic Payday and Cashnet USA.
How to protect yourself:
* Inform your employer. You are likely getting calls at home and/or at work, so make sure your employer is aware the calls are part of a scam and to not take them seriously. Advise the callers that they are no longer allowed to call you at work. If they continue to call, document the date and time of the calls you received. Save voice mails left if at all possible.
* Change your number(s). For some this may not be an option, for others a one-time number change can be done free of charge.
Be advised - any references you listed on your payday loan application will be contacted. Let those people know that this is a scam, and they can disregard.
* Use Google Voice. Google Voice is a great replacement voice mail system for just about any phone number you use. Messages can be transcribed and voice mail recordings can be saved as mp3 files.
Pro Tip - call the scammers with a Google Voice number before turning off your old phone numbers. Make sure when you call you identify yourself so they can start up their script. At any point after they have your information pulled up just hang up. They will then start religiously calling your Google Voice number. At this point, you are free to change your regular phone number(s) and enjoy not having these people ever call you again. (And laugh at the fact these people are basically talking to a brick wall several times a day)
The scammers change their numbers frequently. Law enforcement used to think it was because the callers ran out of minutes on their prepaid wireless accounts or they were shuttered due to fraud, but now they understand it's simply to evade detection by savvy consumers online. With the proliferation of VoIP, it's even easier for the crooks to stay a couple of steps ahead of law enforcement. Below is just a sampling of the 30+ numbers that have been used in recent memory.
So can they really do anything to you?
It's not a simple yes or no answer. Logic dictates that, if they really wanted to take you for a ride and drain your bank accounts, they already would have.
So, why haven't they?
Why do you think you are being called so much? Perhaps it is because they like the sound of your voice? No, they have to have your authorization to take any form of payment from you, period. The callers know their audience, and that audience is typically a bunch of people that have applied for payday loans in the past. Most of those people they call couldn't afford an attorney if they wanted one, and are so used to receiving collections calls that so long as they sound like a real collector, they will likely be perceived as one.
Furthermore, they don't even really want to talk to your attorney - that just sounds official and scary enough. A real attorney would take the callers to task and write them off as two-bit con artists. The callers need you, in writing, to authorize payment against the fictitious debt they claim you owe. Go ahead, ask them for proof you owe the debt - more commonly known as verification of debt. See what they say. A phone authorization carries very little weight, so if they have something signed by you on file, you are done for - and the callers know that. That authorization is the only thing these callers are doing by the book, and for good reason. If they just went all willy nilly and made an ACH debit from your checking account, without your written approval, you could in turn report the transaction as fraudulent to your financial institution. In about 7-10 business days, you would get the funds returned to your account. Then the scammers would be up against a bank and their team of lawyers and investigators.
If you haven't paid the callers a dime, don't. If you planned on paying them to shut them up, just don't. Remember - you are not being contacted by a legally licensed, ethically owned and operated collector. Read up on the FDCPA - http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre27.pdf - and know your rights.