Update On Bogus Collection Scams

by Alan Mansfield on November 5, 2010

While posting your experiences seems to be working to prevent consumers from being taken advantage of, this scam is still on-going, with a company calling people and saying they are from a Consumer Law Group and making threats to extort money.  As we have made clear, this group is in no way affiliated with the Consumer Law Group of California, and we have sent them cease and desist letters to stop them from using this name.  Unfortunately they appear to have vacated their San Diego address, making it difficult to get a court order against them.  So posting such experiences is very important, since the FBI is investigating this company but we need to show this is an on-going problem.  This is what you can do to help:

1.  If they say the are from a law firm or law group, ask them what their address is and who is the responsible attorney so can check them on the State Bar website.  If someone says they are a lawyer or work for a law firm and are not, that is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law — which is why you need to know the answer before talking further.

2.  Ask them to fax you or mail you the paperwork confirming the debt obligation.  If this is an alleged debt outstanding, then there would be a paper trail for it.  And you are entitled to see that paperwork to see if your signature is forged, etc.

3.  Ask them for their address and return telephone and fax number.  For some reason they won’t give this out, but you can explain you need to get back in touch with them after they send you the paperwork, particularly if you tell them you need to consult with an attorney first or that the debt is disputed — since if a debt is disputed, there are certain procedures the company must follow.  And if they say they are going to subpeona you, ask them to send a copy of the subpeona over so you can review it with an attorney. 

4.  Take detailed notes of the call, particularly what they are saying and who they are — first and last name.  Verbal harrassment and threats of criminal action are not permitted under the law, even for valid debt collection.

5.  Ask them not to call you at work, and if calls persist ask the telephone company to block calls from that number.  they may also be able to help you trace where the calls are coming from.

6.  If they have your Social Security Number, ask them where they got it from.  Most applications do not require it, and if it came from a third party who you may have dealt with, that company may have liability for having given that information out.  Plus in California, there are very strict limits about the use of SSNs. 

7. If you are in bankruptcy, call your attorney and report this information as soon as they call.  Your attorneyy may be able to get an order from the bankruptcy judge to stop such actions, since it would be a violation of the automatic stay provisions to engage in any legal action to try and collect on these alleged debts. 

8.  Report such conduct to your local District Attorney or Attorney Generals’ consumer fraud division, and refer them to this site for more information.  Certain offices are vigilant about going after such practices.

9.  Ask them to send you an email, or for an email address, so you can confirm what they are telling you over the phone. 

10.  Rather than pay them with a credit card over the phone on that call, tell them you need the above information first before responding to their demand.  Any legitimate collection group knows they need to do so, and if they refuse that can be a further violation of the law.  There are good consumer websites by groups such as the National Consumer Law Center that explain the fair Debt Collection Practices Act and what your rights are, so  you should also review those to see if their conduct has violated any of those provisions — another point you can raise to them.

Again, we wish we did not have to spend so much time on this issue and you all were not exposed to it, but we feel it important to get as much information out there as possible

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