We recently learned how the Feds busted up a crime ring involving scam debt collectors. Kudos to the government officials who apprehended the offenders. However, if these ruthless attacks against consumers are ever going to stop, the clients who place or sell accounts without conducting thorough due diligence also need to be investigated.
According to the press announcement, the Justice Department and the FBI arrested seven offenders for their roles in a fraudulent debt collection operation that, over the course of five years, targeted more than 6,000 consumers across the United States and stole more than $4 million.
The outrageous offenses listed in the sealed complaint include claims the defendants made false and fraudulent representations over the phone to trick their victims into paying purported debts. The complaint goes on to explain the alleged scheme in which employees of William, Scott and Associates (WSA), a company based in Atlanta that operated under numerous fake names, coerced thousands of victims throughout the U.S. into paying millions of dollars in consumer debts for years.
Victims alleged they received calls from individuals claiming to be employees of WSA, who stated they worked for law enforcement agencies like the Department of Justice, the U.S. Marshals Service, the sheriff, a “Federal Government Task Force,” and the FBI. One victim was told if he did not comply with their phone demands to pay the money back, he would be subject to arrest and imprisonment. Another victim was told she was being contacted by an attorney’s office with ties to a sheriff’s office that would put a warrant out for her spouse’s arrest, which could result in jail time. In total, 18 examples were listed in the complaint, one more awful than the next.
It is disgusting that consumers were repeatedly harassed by WSA employees for years, resulting in the loss of substantial amounts of money, as well as considerable amounts pain and suffering. The offenders should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and the prosecutors should be commended for getting offensive criminals off the streets.
But the companies placing these accounts also need to be thoroughly examined. I read through the written complaint to see what I could learn about the credit grantors or clients who used WSA to collect their debts. Thirty-six pages of consumer complaints and nothing was detailed except for one phone recording in which the collectors stated they were “collecting for a payday loan that Victim-9 had previously obtained and that the current balance was $819.04.”
The Justice Department may want to determine the sources of these debt placements and sales, and whether the debts were legitimate to begin with. If the credit grantor was a reputable operation, and they placed their past due accounts receivable with a company like WSA to handle their needs, aren’t they culpable for their own actions?
WSA is a not a collection agency as far as I’m concerned. They are criminals that exist to defraud consumers. They got away with their crimes for years before getting apprehended. I am certain that WSA is not a member of ACA International or the Debt Buyers Association, and kudos to both of those organizations for their quick response.
WSA would never, ever pass any level of scrutiny if the client just took the time to visit its operation or review its credentials. There are more than 6,000 reputable debt collection agencies in North America to choose from and the clients may have contributed toward preventing these crimes from occurring in the first place if they did their business with reputable vendors.