717-298-0761
PA, US
Alfalfa
Alfalfa
2012-08-02 14:06:16
Unknown
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.

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/phantom-debt-co ... 16512428&page=2
cassie tierson
cassie tierson
2012-08-02 13:33:05
Prank Call
my husband recieved a phone call from officer j williams,told us that he could prove we had a loan from 4 months ago.weve never taken out a loan,haha,but said if my husband didnt pay 491.00 they were come to arrest him,i told him that would be hard to do considering there in pa,he said he was turnin it over to all the police here,i told him good cause when i called them askin about who he was the first time nobody had heard of him,they said they were from ckine investigations.i did my research and when he told me he wanted to meet at the courthouse i told him ok,an hour went by still bein at home i called him back anyway and said ive been here waitin where are you i dont have time for this he said well my cheif decided your husband is an outstanding guy,hes gonna give him an extension to pat the loan back,i laughed and said ok officer smith he ACTUALLY agreed to that bein his name,lol.sometimes they dont even remember who their pretendin to be.
scared
scared
2011-07-16 21:49:06
Debt Collector
I too received call from Matthew Jenkins. I was scared into paying him 800.00 because of his threats and he says I owe 2300 dollars for a 250. 00 loan that I thought was paid three years ago.Here are some other numbers that he uses as his number keeps changing. 717-4695831 and most recent 215-4866365. i just received his latest threat and dont know what to do. can anyone help?
Nirmala
Nirmala
2011-06-06 20:55:36
Unknown
The person who been calling me is Nick Thomas, He has been calling my cell and my job.
Redd
Redd
2011-06-06 20:55:36
Unknown
My boyfriend keeps getting threating phone calls from this #.  Two men of Indian decent, one claiming to be officer Markus Gunner from the BCI.  This is a scam!!!!!
trish truly
trish truly
2011-06-06 20:55:36
Unknown
this  # called my job and wanted info on my. How they got were i worked is scarey. How they got my SS3 is even scarier
Nirmala
Nirmala
2011-06-06 20:55:35
Unknown
The person who been calling me is Nick Thomas, He has been calling my cell and my job.
Redd
Redd
2011-06-06 20:55:35
Unknown
My boyfriend keeps getting threating phone calls from this #.  Two men of Indian decent, one claiming to be officer Markus Gunner from the BCI.  This is a scam!!!!!
trish truly
trish truly
2011-06-06 20:55:35
Unknown
this  # called my job and wanted info on my. How they got were i worked is scarey. How they got my SS3 is even scarier
Annoyed
Annoyed
2011-05-27 14:20:24
Unknown
This guy has now changed his name to office Richard Johnson.  He just called my work looking for my co-worker who is off today.  Not passing the message on because I know of NO officer in the USA with an accent that thick.
keya
keya
2011-05-26 02:53:34
Unknown
these people had me gone for a minute they called me like 4 time an when i picked up an heard the way they talk i hung up,, they started callin me from a unknown number an started talkin real nasty stating that i was going to to jail an was gone get a warrent in the mail because im running with their money ,, they said i either can pay 400 dollars or i can take it though the court an mii total finds is gone cost me up to 8000 dollars NOT includidng BAIL ,, a whole bunch of b***s***
Monica
Monica
2011-05-25 19:09:17
Unknown
these people calls and threaten me everyday.. im going to call back & confront them. i will also file a police report.
DR
DR
2011-05-24 16:16:15
Unknown
Yeah, the left me a message saying they were calling from bureau of criminal investigation. Interesting, since we don't have that in America, we have the FBI. Said she was calling about my social security number. Very thick middle eastern accent. The funniest part is the phone number left on the voicemail did not match the phone number on the caller id.
Unknown
Unknown
2011-05-23 21:34:00
Unknown
I just received a call from these people claiming to be investigating me for a payday loan that was not taken out by me earlier this year.  The man asked me if I wanted to settle out of court & take care of this today.  I asked him to slow down and speak clearly, which he did, but then he went on to tell me that if I didn't pay today that he'd have me arrested.  I told him he couldn't arrest me!  My boss was nice enough to come check on me & when I told him that the man on the phone doesn't make any sense or speak english very well & there is some claim against my social security number, the man on the other end of the phone said "you f*&cking bi$%&" I speak english, then he hung up!
AJ
AJ
2011-05-17 04:01:22
Unknown
Just go more information. If your receiving these calls like were are. You will need to do the following:

Contact the FBI and file a complaint at www.IC3.gov
-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 immedicate danger.

Hope this helps everyone.
AJ
AJ
2011-05-17 02:29:29
Debt Collector
I received a call today from the same people claiming to be from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.   They stated that they needed to speak with my husband  & if they did hear from him in the next 30 minutes he would be arrested at work. My husband got on the phone, as i tried to get our local police department on the other line (whole nother story).  Anyway foreign guy ID himself as OFC Mathew Jenkins with an Indian/Pakistani accent.  The guy the started using language like Mother F*ucker, give me $500 or I'll have you arrested. Of course my husband started laughing and said what kinda Scam is this? Ofc. Jenkins as he calls himself says, this is not a scam your going to be arrested you Mother F*ucker, Co*** sucker, etc..... and the guys just went on & on. Finally, I said I got the police on the other line and everything is being recorded and they hung up.

I did report this information to the true Criminal Investigations Bureau in PA at 16 Strawberry Sq. Harrisburg, PA phone #717-787-6858.

We will diff. be filing police report and everything else we can to catch these criminals. Because that's who they are! CRIMINALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jen
Jen
2011-05-17 01:38:01
Unknown
Has anyone been able to get these people to stop calling? For me it started last week, but has been everyday except the weekend. I don't want to call these people back because I'm afraid if I call them out on their b.s. - who knows what they will do & what info they have. It's obviously a scam - this isn't the 16th century - no one in America goes to jail for owing a "debt". I did get a good laugh out of "officer Craig Summers" with an Indian/Pakistani accent reading from a script - yeah right. If anyone has been able to get them to stop successfully any tips will be appreciated.
Jane
Jane
2011-05-13 23:39:11
Unknown
Very interesting about Cash Advance USA.  I once had a loan through them - but totally paid off.  They had a class action law suit against them because of the interest they charged. And they lost it and had to pay out to some customers. I wonder if some how related?  They wouldn't tell me the company that was "having me arrested".
Jane
Jane
2011-05-13 23:30:04
Unknown
Who are these people? He said he was with the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations.  I called the number back after being told I would be arrested at my place of employement - then hung up on.  All have  Middle Eastern or East Indian accents. He would not answer any of my questions just told me I would be arrested.  How do we stop this?
Larry
Larry
2011-05-13 19:59:40
Unknown
I received a phone call today from someone I could barely understand. They claimed I had received money for a loan and had all of my personal information.  They threatened to send the FBI out to my house and seize all my belongings.  I hung up after they would not listen to me. They sounded Arab, but I don't know for sure.  They said I owed Cash Advance USA, and I told them I never heard of CashAdvance USA.  This is a complete identity theft scam.
Eric W.
Eric W.
2011-05-10 14:18:40
Unknown
Just got a call from this number. The first thing I did was google it and got this website. The instant I confronted the caller about it, he hung up. Then when I called back I got the "Supervisor" who asked why I was "harassing" his agents and asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted him to shred everything he had about me and to never call my number again. He then told me that me and my wife would be getting harassed alot. When I told him to give me an address and a phone number he said "Come to Pakistan you mother f*cker. Come to Pakistan."
Vette
Vette
2011-05-04 16:19:21
Debt Collector
These same people that can hardly speak english keep calling my job and cellphone as well.  I work at a hospital and they call constantly after being asked to not call.  I am going to report them also.. they threat people about going to jail.. The perosn I spoke to an hour ago said he was a police officer and on his way to arrest me a bunch of BS.  Can someone please do something about this company. Thanks
?
?
2011-05-03 14:39:07
Unknown
I have received these calls too from Nick Thomas and he will not stop, he had me so scared and i thought i was going to jail, I call my finanical consuldator and they said it was a scam to not answer the phone and to contact your local Police dept. We all need to stop these people and they need to be sent to jail too. I am tired of the mental abuse.
Delight
Delight
2011-04-26 15:23:56
Unknown
Got a call from these folks too.  Some lady I could hardly understand but I won't be calling them back.....idiots
They kill me trying to tell you that you are being sued or will get arrested because you owe some creditor money.  Last time I checked that's not a crime.
fed up
fed up
2011-04-16 00:00:07
Unknown
These calls keep coming. I wish someone would stop these guys.  You know there are people out there that are actually falling for there crap.
jayson A
jayson A
2011-04-08 19:36:23
Unknown
These people have been harassing my younger brother say they will arrest him and now that stepped in and called them back they keep hanging up on me
sharon douglas
sharon douglas
2011-04-07 06:49:51
Debt Collector
these people called me over 32 times and told me they were coming to my house to have sex with me,,i went to the police and they told  me that there was nothing they could do
Sue Lawson
Sue Lawson
2011-03-31 23:19:32
Debt Collector
Just got off the phone with these "people"...obviously not from this country.  The couldn't provide my complete SS #, when the money I supposedly owed was deposited and hung up on me when I threatened to sue them for not provided me with all pertinent information.  How can we get them to stop???
james
james
2011-03-30 23:16:20
Debt Collector
this guy called me too and said we would meet at the court house. now they wont answer there phone and when they did they knew it was me. i left some nice messages for them. its a scam dont talk to them.
Pretty gurl
Pretty gurl
2011-03-24 23:30:09
Prank Call
Yes they called my mother in another state then from myself and then when I called I was suppost to speak to Nick Thomas he told me there was a warrent for my name....i said Im not the only person with that name I told them if they did not stop scamming on the phone I was calling the real police and turn ya'll in and they hung up....heavy accent....I will be reporting them to the police and file a harrasment charge or case on them
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