Fake Debt Collectors Posed as Attorney’s to Trick Consumers into Paying Debts They Didn’t Owe
To coerce some people into paying the phantom debts, the defendants threatened them with prison time
A debt collection operation has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with taking people's money for fake debts they did not owe by posing as lawyers and falsely threatening to sue or have them arrested if they did not pay.
A federal court temporarily halted the operation and froze its assets at the request of the FTC, which seeks to end the practices permanently.
According to the FTC, the defendants' called people without identifying themselves as debt collectors, said a lawsuit or criminal action had been filed or soon would be filed against them, and gave a phony "case number" and a phone number to call.
Those who responded were told the callers were attorneys or were calling from a law firm. To coerce some people into paying the phantom debts, the defendants threatened them with prison time or claimed police would come to their house to arrest them, the FTC alleges.
The agency also alleges that the defendants pretended to be unrelated, legitimate small businesses, which may have harmed those businesses' reputation and caused angry consumers to call the businesses to complain about their debt collection activities.
The FTC further alleges that the defendants illegally disclosed purported debts to third parties, failed to send consumers required written notices with the debt amount and the creditor's name, and failed to give them an opportunity to dispute the debt.
Hardco Holding Group LLC, S&H Financial Group Inc., Daryl M. Hall, and Dequan M. Sicard are all charged with violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.