Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect on loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive but for amounts they do not owe. Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect for them. So what’s the story?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, is warning consumers to be on the alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors. It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one. Sometimes a fake collector may even have some of your personal information, like a bank account number. A caller may be a fake debt collector if he:
- is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
- refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
- asks you for personal financial or sensitive information; or
- exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.
If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector:
- Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.If a caller refuses to give you all of this information, do not pay! Paying a fake debt collector will not always make them go away. They may make up another debt to try to get more money from you.
- Stop speaking with the caller. If you have the caller’s address, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing.
- Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know whom you’re dealing with. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft – charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name.
- Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
- Report the call. Contact the FTC and your state Attorney General’s office with information about suspicious callers. Many states have their own debt collection laws in addition to the federal FDCPA. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.
Cracking LifeLock: Even After a $12 Million Penalty for Deceptive Advertising, the Tempe Company Can’t Be Honest About Its Identity-Theft-Protection Service
By Ray Stern
published: May 13, 2010
It’s been two months since the feds tried to gut LifeLock with a $12 million penalty for deceptive advertising, and the company’s Web site still boasts that it can protect people from identity theft.
The Tempe-based company has spent millions of dollars since 2006 on ads that broadcast CEO Todd Davis’ Social Security number. Customers pay $10 to $15 a month for the supposed protection — and for LifeLock’s “$1 million guarantee” if the protection fails.
On one LifeLock Web page, www.todddavislifelock.com, active until early May, Davis stated that he’s “absolutely confident LifeLock is protecting my good name and personal information, just like it will yours.”
Davis, a suit-wearing, ever-smiling salesman with short, blond hair, exudes confidence in LifeLock’s ads.
But the evidence shows that he shouldn’t be the slightest bit confident in LifeLock’s ability to protect his name or personal data.
In June 2007, in the wake of a New Times article that exposed how LifeLock was founded with lies, news leaked that Davis had become the victim of identity theft. A man in Texas had used Davis’ ID to take out a $500 loan, and Davis didn’t know about it until the unpaid account went to a collection agency.
In the following months, Davis and LifeLock worked hard to spin the story into something positive. Davis claimed in an interview with MSNBC in May 2008 that the Texas incident was the one and only time anything like that had ever happened to him.
Another LifeLock page dedicated to Todd Davis, (www.lifelock.com/todd-davis) claimed (until it, like the other Davis page, was removed by LifeLock on May 4 following inquiries by New Times) that Davis “has looked to LifeLock for protection after an identity theft . . . but only once, and LifeLock was there to help.”
New Times has learned, though, that the Texas incident wasn’t a fluke.
In October 2007, a few months after news broke that Davis had become a victim, someone in Albany, Georgia, opened an AT&T wireless account using Davis’ personal info, a Chandler police report shows. (See the PDF version of the report.)
As Todd Davis tried to deflect the bad press in the wake of the Texas crime, the Albany resident was racking up hours on a cell phone in Davis’ name.
By the time AT&T cut off the person, he or she had amassed a large, unpaid bill. The amount with which AT&T was stuck wasn’t disclosed, but in the fall of 2008, the phone company authorized a collection agency to try to recover a $2,390 debt.
That’s when LifeLock and Davis finally learned of the theft.
A LifeLock employee reported the identity crime to Chandler police on November 21, 2008, while Todd Davis was traveling out of state.
After a short time on the case, Chandler forwarded it to police in the Georgia city, which still is still investigating. Phyllis Banks, a spokeswoman for the Albany agency, tells New Times that investigators went to the address listed on the bill and interviewed a local woman, but no arrests had been made.
When Albany investigators phoned Davis about the crime last year, “they were very familiar with him” and how he’d publicized his Social Security number, she says.
“It’s unfortunate he chose to conduct business in that way,” Banks says. “It’s not fair to [AT&T] because they’re losing a pretty substantial amount of money.”
Yet AT&T wasn’t the only company getting screwed by LifeLock’s advertising scheme — because plenty more criminals have made use of Davis’ data.
Records show that LifeLock representative Tamika Jones called the Chandler PD again in February 2009 to report a slew of fraudulent accounts opened in Davis’ name.
As with the AT&T account, the amounts owed on the fraudulent accounts were not revealed in the police report — only the amounts sought by various companies and collection agencies, listed below. Because these companies often forgive or waive a percentage of the bills of debtors, the dollar amount of the losses could easily be higher.
More cell-phone service was fraudulently charged to Davis: Someone opened a Verizon account in New York, leaving behind unpaid bills of at least $186.
An account at Centerpoint Energy, a Texas utility, was opened. At least $122 went unpaid.
Fake Davises owe $573 to Credit One Bank and $312 to Swiss Colony, a gift-basket company.
Two other accounts, one for USA Savings Bank and a Gap credit card, were opened successfully in Davis’ name but showed zero balances as of early 2009.
There were also multiple dings by collection agencies: Bay Area Credit, $265; two for Associated Credit Services, $207 and $213; and two for Enhanced Recovery Corporation, $250 and $381. Finally, there was a NCO/Fin 22 collection-agency account for $2,390, which could be the AT&T bill (considering the identical amount).
Full details as to what happened with these accounts could not be obtained from Davis. But it’s clear that criminals in different locales have used Davis’ ID to obtain a host of loans, goods, and services.
Davis’ personal ID hasn’t been merely abused since he began advertising his SSN — it’s been gang-raped.
Counting the Texas incident, he’s been a victim at least 13 times since 2007.
More such incidents may exist — Davis should know how many. He could reveal his credit reports from the past few years, if he wanted customers to know the truth. But LifeLock refused to discuss Davis’ role as a frequent identity-theft victim or answer any other questions from New Times for this story.
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©2013 Phoenix New Times, LLC, All rights reserved.
My experience as a customer, and friend, with Anthony and his company have been exceedingly rewarding and satisfactory. My scores jumped about 100 points each in all three credit bureaus from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Respectively, my scores were 603, 532, and 540 before enlisting Anthony’s assistance. Now they stand at 697, 699, and 694!!! An incredible improvement in my opinion and I am very grateful for Anthony’s assistance. I thought I would never be able to raise my credit score…in only a little over 2 years! The cost of NOT enlisting Anthony’s services would have been far greater than the cost of membership. It pays for itself many times over. I would highly recommend anyone remotely considering a credit restoration and improvement solution to look no further than the service Anthony has established. Thank you, Anthony, for all the hard work you, and your staff, have done for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today financially without you and your team. I consider you a friend and someone I can trust. I am very happy. Thanks again.
– Cameron from CT
A jury Friday awarded an Oregon woman $18.6 million after she spent two years unsuccessfully trying to get Equifax Information Services to fix major mistakes on her credit report.
The judgment, likely to be appealed, appears to be one of the largest awarded to a consumer in a case against one of the nation’s major credit bureaus.
Julie Miller of Marion County, who was awarded $18.4 million in punitive and $180,000 in compensatory damages, contacted Equifax eight times between 2009 and 2011 in an effort to correct inaccuracies, including erroneous accounts and collection attempts, as well as a wrong Social Security number and birthday. Yet over and over, the lawsuit alleged, the Atlanta-based company failed to correct its mistakes.
“There was damage to her reputation, a breach of her privacy and the lost opportunity to seek credit,” said Justin Baxter, the Portland attorney who teamed on the case with his father and law partner, Michael Baxter. “She has a brother who is disabled and who can’t get credit on his own and she wasn’t able to help him.”
Tim Klein, an Equifax spokesman, said Friday that he didn’t have any details about the decision from the Oregon Federal District Court. He declined to comment about the specifics of the case.
A Federal Trade Commission study earlier this year of 1,001 consumers who reviewed 2,968 of their credit reports found 21 percent contained errors. The survey, which is required as part of a 2003 law, found that 5 percent of the errors represented issues that would lead consumers to be denied credit.
A 2012 investigation by the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch newspaper reviewed nearly 30, 000 consumer complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general in 24 states about unresolved errors made by the largest consumer credit agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The newspaper found that with complaints about errors, consumers reported it had taken many months to fix even the most basic mistakes.
Miller first discovered a problem when she was denied credit by a bank in early December 2009. She alerted Equifax and filled out multiple forms faxed by the credit agency seeking updated information.
In addition to requesting the changes, Miller had asked several times for copies of her credit report, the lawsuit alleged. Credit bureaus are required by law to provide reports to consumers for free annually and after that, for a small fee. On numerous occasions, Equifax failed to respond to Miller’s requests.
Miller had found similar problems in her reports with other credit bureaus. However, Baxter said, those companies had corrected their mistakes.
The issue wasn’t a result of identity theft, Baxter said. Instead, the information from another “Julie Miller” had simply been placed in the plaintiff’s record by mistake. In at least one case, the lawsuit alleged, the plaintiff’s private financial information was sent to companies inquiring about the other Julie Miller.
Since 2008, Oregon consumers have filed hundreds of complaints about credit bureaus with the state’s Attorney General. Those complaints include 108 against Equifax, 113 against Experian and 70 against TransUnion.
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Michael – Fayetteville, NC
I get asked a lot about how to deal with collectors. Should or shouldn’t you pay? In this video I talk about the consequences either way. I give you a few examples so that you can make a decision either way.
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Statute of Limitations
Most states are 4 years, but click on this link to find out the specific laws in your state.
Cease & Desist Letter
Use this letter to stop the annoying phone calls from bill collectors.