The Internet Crime Complaint Center has received many complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. Callers claim the victim is delinquent in a payday loan and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences. The callers purport to be representatives of the FBI, Federal Legislative Department, various law firms, or other legitimate-sounding agencies. They claim to be collecting debts for companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Net, and other Internet check-cashing services.
According to complaints received from the public, the callers have accurate data about victims, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, employer information, bank account numbers, and the names and telephone numbers of relatives and friends. How the fraudsters obtained the personal information varies, but in some cases victims have reported they completed online applications for other loans or credit cards before the calls started.
The fraudsters relentlessly call the victim?s home, cell phone, and place of employment. They refuse to provide any details about the alleged payday loans and become abusive when questioned. The callers have threatened victims with legal actions, arrests, and, in some cases, physical violence if they do not pay. In many cases, the callers harass victims? relatives, friends, and employers.
Some fraudsters have instructed victims to fax a statement agreeing to pay a certain amount, on a specific date, via a pre-paid Visa card. The statement further declares the victim will never dispute the debt.
If you receive these calls, do not follow the caller?s instructions. Rather, you should:
?Notify your banking institutions.
?Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file.
?Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger.
?File a complaint at www.IC3.gov.
Tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
?Never give your Social Security number?or personal information of any kind?over the telephone or online unless you initiate the contact.
?Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. The e-mail may include upsetting or exciting but false statements to get you to react immediately.
?Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that request personal information.
?Ensure that your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been applied.
?Check your bank, credit, and debit card statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
?When you contact companies, use numbers provided on the back of cards or statements
Phantom Debt Collectors From India Harass Americans, Demand Money
By BRIAN ROSS (@brianross) , CINDY GALLI and MATTHEW MOSK (@mattmosk)
June 7, 2012
Hundreds of thousands of cash-strapped Americans have been targeted by abusive debt collectors operating out of overseas call centers suspected of links to organized crime in India, law enforcement officials told ABC News.
The calls are part of a massive scam, one that appears to target struggling Americans -- especially those who have gone online to apply for payday loans. Armed with personal information from those pilfered applications, the threatening callers, who claim to be debt collectors poised to initiate legal action, have managed to pry loose millions of dollars from their victims -- even when the victims never owed money in the first place.
"This is what we call a phantom debt collection scam," said Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. "It's a very pernicious and innovative new fraud."
Working through call centers in India, the commission estimates that the criminals have dialed at least 2.5 million calls, persuading already cash-strapped victims to send them more than $5 million. Some have reported receiving dozens of calls per hour. They are victims like Cindy Gervais, of New Orleans, who went online for a quick loan when her husband's car was hit by a driver who didn't have insurance.
Even though she paid the loan off, the so-called "phantom" debt collectors with Indian accents began calling to say she still owed money.
He more or less told me that if I didn't pay, they were going to have someone on my doorstep to arrest me," she told ABC News. "And that they were going to contact my place of business, and tell them what kind of person I am."
At first, she said she resisted. Then the calls became more frequent, and started to ring on her cell phone, and at the grocery distribution company where she had worked for 27 years.
"I was more or less was in panic mode because he told me there would be someone before noon at my place of business to arrest me and take me to jail," she said tearfully. "So I agreed to pay him."
After receiving scores of complaints, investigators with the FTC said they began tracking the calls, and following the payments. They alleged the payments led them to a California company run by an Indian-American named Kirit Patel, and that such scams would not be possible without American front men.
"I would say that all roads of this scam, or many of the roads of this scam, lead back to Mr. Patel," said the FTC's Leibowitz.
ABC News tracked Patel for weeks, from the suburbs of San Francisco to Austin, Texas.
Patel refused to talk. But his lawyer, Mark Ellis, said he believes it is far too early to pass judgment on his client. Ellis, a Sacramento-based attorney, told ABC News that Patel was hired for a nominal fee to set up an American shell company, and had no idea what the call centers in India were doing.
"I can tell you, he was as snookered by the people in India as anybody," Ellis said. "He's a 69-year-old man who is nearing his retirement who thought all he had to do was set up some corporations and everything was on the up and up. He's completely dismayed that he has become the lightning rod of this entire problem."
A close friend of Patel's also defended him in a brief interview at his home, saying Patel was not trying to defraud anyone -- he was just an unwitting, bit player in a larger scheme.
"If Mr. Patel was just a cog in the wheel he seems to have been a pretty big cog," Leibowitz said. "It is clear that Patel was integrally involved with this scam."
Leibowitz points to thousands of pages of financial and phone records gathered by the FTC and filed as part of a civil case brought against him in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento last month. When FTC lawyers sought to freeze his assets and prevent his business from continuing to operate, Patel responded by invoking his rights against self-incrimination. His lawyer told ABC News he has had to be careful in how he responds to the allegations in civil court "because there is a potential criminal action," but that Patel maintains the allegations against him are false.
Federal investigators said the phantom debt collection operation that allegedly benefitted from Patel's assistance was one of several that all trace back to the same small town in Western India called Ahmedabad. Callers use technology to make it appear that the calls originate inside the U.S. Victims provided ABC News with recordings of dozens of the calls, and many of the thickly accented callers appear to be reading off a script.
"Subpoenas have been readied, and Monday morning you're going to be picked up from your home," one caller says on a victim's voicemail. "And you have children. Don't worry about your children. We have a childcare department to take care of the children."
"You will be behind bars for six months," said another caller. "And once you go behind bars, you will lose your job. Once you are behind the bars, you won't get a single drop of water."
William Peerce Howard, a Tampa attorney who represents victims of harassment from debt collectors, said it takes an especially twisted criminal to use threats and coercion to pry money from someone who is already struggling financially
"These guys really are the most visible villains in America today," he said. "They make a living scaring people."
Mark Merola, of Florida, said he just panicked when the caller told him he might be arrested at the deli where he works in a Florida retirement community.
"I was nervous. I didn't want to embarrass myself, my family," he said. He used his debit card to pay the collector $576.
Afterwards, he says he realized "how stupid I was."
"It just happened so fast," he said. "I got scared."
Leibowitz said he hopes with more attention, future potential targets of the scam will recognize red flags before they turn over any money.
If callers say they are from the police, consumers should know that law enforcement officers do not collect debt for private parties. If the caller is speaking with a thick Indian accent, but calls themselves by a names such as Officer Mike Johnson, that should be a tip off. And if they're calling 40 times in two hours, that's another red flag. "Legitimate debt collectors, legitimate pay day lenders don't do those sorts of things," he said.
Merola said he would like to see anyone involved in the scam prosecuted aggressively.
"There's no place in society for these people," he said.
I, as well, am glad that I'm not alone in this. My question is, how far does this have to go before he can be sued?? The guy at FTC told me, that just with my one phone call with this jerk, he has broken several laws, and is arrestable....so, for these people who have been harassed more than once by him?? I did see there are lawyers that will go after him, but how much does a person have to take before they can even do that?
Thankyou! I did just report him to the ftc along firstname.lastname@example.org, and the local pd. The person I talked to at FTC said to also call 1-800-680-7289 and put a fraud alert on your credit since this jerk has our ss numbers
Go to dps.reportfraud@state. your state's initials.us and report him. That's what I did. They have had several complaints about this jerk and are trying to track him down. It is ILLEGAL to personate a police officer of any kind.
Yes! That's the company he said I owed money to. However, I checked my info. That debt was paid in 2005 by wage garnishments. He says I still owe on it. He wouldn't even check into the fact that it was paid and just called me a liar and then proceeded to threaten my mom!
This same guy called me from a 713 number and said he was a detective for the state of Texas. He threatened me and my family....I looked up his name in Tx, and I did find a lawyer who handles bill collections with his name, and he is a retired cop.....but now that I see hes calling you from somewhere else, it's probably not him....if he does continue to harass you, look up bill collector harrassment. You can sue him :)
Yep, got a voicemail from "Detective Parks" claiming to be issuing a warrant for my arrest if I did not pay my remaining debt by noon (call was at 10am). I did have a debt with advance america, but it is over 6 years old. I can't believe I fell for it and gave these a-holes $266 of my hard earned cash, and it didn't even go to pay off my debt. Just makes me wonder how many collectors are real. I don't plan on paying off any debts through anyone that calls me because of THIS incident. From now on I'm going to settle all of my debts through the credit reporting agencies, and get the numbers to call directly from them.
This man called said he was a detective parks calling for someone else ,he called my 73 yr old father up yelling and screaming we have asked him not to call here again and that the person he was asking for does not live here ,he threaten to have are county sherriffs come to us ....he upsets my father and makes him nervous ..i did a reverse number check and called his local police department and made a report this is a scam and everyone should call the police department in lake ozark,osage beach,mo. and file a complaint so they can arrest this person....
Iam glad iam not alone this Mr. Parks has been calling me and my Family threatening me with a warrent for my arrest for fraud.. And also said he was going to call my work and send someone to arrest me I told him he needs to do what he needs to do and Iam going to do what I need to do. So i called my lawyer and he said i need to report him to my local police dept and go to www.ftc.gov and file a report.. I really wish we can put a stop to him. He had my kids so scared that there mom was going to jail and thats not right. its so sad what people have to do to make money..
FYI This was on the Anderson cooper show last month. He had 15 different scams.
#1 Disguised Phone Call Scam
Identity theft expert Robert Siciliano says a ?bad guy? will use your social networking page, such as Facebook, to retrieve personal information from you before placing a call to a victim?s family member or friend, asking for money.
Siciliano also reveals that a thief can easily change a caller ID. Just because the caller ID says it?s your friend, it doesn?t mean it is.
How to Avoid:
Siciliano recommends turning on privacy settings on your Facebook account.
Several years ago a friend of mine got a phone call from a sherrif in North Texas. His grand son was in jail. He asked for the phone number to call back and the scam was then over.
THIS GUY DETECTIVE PARKS CALLED MY MOM SAYING I HAD A WARRENT FOR MY ARREST SITTING ON HIS DESK AND IF I DIDN'T CALL HIM WITHIN AN HOUR HE WE WOULD COME TO MY PLACE OF WORK AND ARREST ME!!! MY MOM CALLED ME AND I WAS SCARED. I CALLED MY LOCAL COURTS AND NOTHING WAS IN THERE SYSTEM. I CALLED " DETECTIVE PARKS" BACK AND HE SAID I OWED MONEY AND HE WAS FRom THE FINANCIAL CRIMES UNIT. AND IF I DIDN'T PAY IT OVER THE PHONE HE WOULD FIND AND ARREST ME. I ASKED FOR HIS BADGE .NUMBER AND HE SCREAMED " I DON'T ANSWER TO THIEF'S" AND I TOLD HIM THAT WAS UNPROFESSIONAL FOR A DETECTIVE AND TO GIVE ME HIS BADGE NUMBER AND HE HUNG UP ON ME!! HE ACTUALLY HAS MY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!! HE SAID IT!!! HE SAID IT WAS FROM A PAYDAY LOAN IN 2004!!! I CALLED MY LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THERE SENDING A REAL DETECTIVE TO MY HOUSE SO I CAN REPORT THIS GUY!!!!
Detective Parks called me too!!! Very unprofessional and said I stole money and was a very serious crime. I called the police!!
If you paid with a credit card then try to get the money back and tell the credit card company that your card was compromised because once this a**le gets your account information then you'll keep getting weird charges posted on your card. Also contact your bank and your local law enforcement authorities. This guy is a fraud!!!!
On Wednesday morning my son called me about a message that left on our home phone about how I'm going to be arrested by Boone County sheriff dept. if I don't pay up for a zombie debt by 12 noon on that day. The man also called my parents and threatened them with arrest and he also called the HR deptartment where I work and said he was going to go to my work place. I'm sure he told them information that he's not legally allowed to do. I filed a report with the Boone County Sheriff's deptartment and a deputy called me back for more information. He was able to speak to man who had identified himself at Investigator Joseph Parks and told Mr. Parks that he couldn't identify himself as law enforcement. Parks yelled and swore at the deputy and told the deputy not to call him anymore. I got a phone call from this jerk Parks on my work phone and I tried to get him to tell me what company he worked for and the address but he was yelling and cussing at me and he added another $1000.00 the total of the bill because I was arguing with him. Wednesday night I called that phone number again and the message said the message said to leave a message. The man's name was John Ford and he was an attorney. I called the number even later and the message changed to saying the person's name as DETECTIVE DAN FORD and he was with some criminal unit. I called the deputy today and told him about the 2 messages. I've also filed a report with the MO Attorney General's office.
I am also having teh same problems with this person.I have contacted my local sherrifs department and they told me that i could file charges if and when he can be located.He cussed me yelled at me and harrassed me...He also called my husband a f@#$ing a@@hole....he said GD on my voicemail and saying if I did not pay him then he was coming to my house and gonna get me. It scared the crap out of me until I spoke to my local police and they told me it was a scam to get money.The guy that called claimed I owed a payday loan from 2004.This man needs to be stopped and put under the jail.If I find out who he is I am pursuing charges on him.
Crazy this guys Mr parks just called me, and said things about my wife. We just paid something and now he is calling back. Is he ligitmate or scamming me out of money. Does it acually go to the debt.
They call relatives to find you. Phone calls are threatened that a warrant will be put against you if you don't pay. Scam to retrieve money from way past old debts.
Check Solution Services/Profile Management/Cash Advance America
You sir, have only accomplished the act of allowing yourself to be scammed.... these people are in a theft ring, they get your old debt info by purchasing it from hackers, assuming they're not the hackers themselves. Look over the paperwork VERY carefully...I bet something's missing. Forward your "release paperwork" to the FBI and FTC, see what they tell you.
I spoke to a guy at this number who identified himself as Investigator Parks he called with a valid claim against me but I had thought the matter had been resolved in a divorce settlement. After researching matter and speaking to my bankruptcy attorney he recommended I resolve the matter amicable. He offered me a settlement and did provide the release paperwork my attorney told me to obtain.
I alos received this call and called my local Sheriffs office asking about my warrent that didnt exist....I called him after i found out he also called my step my saying he was a detective an she RECORDED him saying that as if he keeps harrassing me i will turn this over to the police it is ILLEGAL to identify yourself as a Police Officer.....He hung up on me said im sending police to your location now BUT SCREAMED at the TOP of his LUNGS when i asked what is the warrent for and my step mom had him so shook that he wouldnt even talk to me because we recorded him twice FALSELY IDENTIFYING HIMSELF and Threatening for a Warrent------BILL COLLECTOR __ FULL OF SH%^
If you do a reverse look up all it will give you is a map pointing to a street, what type of line it is, and what City he is out of.
This is all the free info. that I can get
Bagner Dam Rd.
Lake Ozaark, Mo.
This guy called my parents telling them he was a detcetive with the fraud department, with the Columbia Police Department. He demanded that they give him my information and have me call him with in the hour or he would have me arrested. My father called with concern and gave me the Detcetive's phone number.
I called the Detcetive and asked him what Police Department he worked with. He also told me that he was a detective with the fraud department on the Columbia Police Department. It was also at that point he threatened me with arrest, if I did not pay the amount he than demanded. I explained to him that I was on disability and could not pay anything at this time. He called me a a***ole and again yelled at me with the threat of arrest. I than told him that he was unproffessional. He again called me an a***ole and hung up.
I called the Columbia Police Department to file a complaint with his supervisor and at that time I was told by the Sgt. that Columbia Police did not have a det. Joe Wislon, nor did they have a fraud dept.
I called this Jerk back to see if I heard what I thought I heard in the first call. He again told me that he was a det. with the fraud dept. of the Columbia Police Department.
I filed a complaint with my local Police Dept. and was informed that I should file a complaint with my State Att. General. I did that as well.
My father also filed a complaint with his local Police Dept.
This JERK keeps calling and yelling at my father all week. My father keeps giving him my phone number but the JERK wont call me. I again called the JERK and on his voice mail gave him my phone number and request that he call me and stop harrissing my parents. (this was last fri)
Today(the next week on tues.) the JERK called me and screamed at me that I am to never call his voice mail and leave a message like that. He also told me that he would call my F****ng Parents anytime he wanted. I informed that he was giving my phone number and according to the Police officer I filed a complaint with told me to do. He realy started screaming at that time and informed me he could give a s*** about me filing a complaint, and he would start my arrest warrent. I asked him to stop screaming and talk to me like a man. I also asked him to please tell me what state he was a detcetive in and what city. He told me that he did not have to answer any of my questions. I than just hung up. I will again file a complaint with my local law enforcement and with my state Attny. Gen.
I am getting the same a***ole doing this as well!
this guy keeps calling harrasing me at work and home screaming yelling saying he is goin to have me arrested but wont saywhy