The Federal Trade Commission and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office announced Friday that they have obtained a court order temporarily halting a fake debt collection scam located in a suburb of Chicago. The defendants are charged with illegally using threats and intimidation tactics to coerce consumers to pay payday loan debts they either did not owe, or did not owe to the defendants.
Named in the case are Aurora, Ill.-based K.I.P., LLC., and two of its principals: Charles and Chantelle Dickey.
“This company scared and tricked people into paying debts they didn’t owe,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Working with terrific partners like the Illinois Attorney General, we will keep going after phantom debt scams like this one and shutting them down.”
The FTC noted that this enforcement action represents its seventh case against fake or “phantom” debt collectors.
“The defendants have threatened and intimidated their way into stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people all across the country,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Between our two offices, we have hundreds of complaints. It is clear they must be stopped.”
According to the complaint, since at least 2010, the defendants used a host of business names to target consumers who obtained or applied for payday or other short-term loans, pressuring them into paying debts that they either did not owe or that the defendants had no authority to collect. Other business entities named in the complaint include Ezell Williams and Associates, Corp.; Ezell Williams, LLC; Excel Receivables, Corp.; Second Chance Financial Credit, Corp.; Second Chance Financial, LLC; Payday Loan Recovery Group, LLC; Payday Loan Recovery Group; Payday Loan Recovery; International Recovery Services, LLC; International Recovery Services; and D&R Recovery.
Often armed with sensitive financial information, the defendants would call consumers and demand immediate payment for payday loans that were supposedly delinquent. To pressure consumers to pay, the defendants threatened that they would:
- Garnish consumers’ wages;
- Suspend or revoke their drivers’ licenses;
- Have them arrested or imprisoned; or
- File a lawsuit against them.
In response to the defendants’ repeated calls and alleged threats, many consumers paid the debts, even though they may not have owed them, because they believed the defendants would follow through on their threats or they simply wanted to end the harassing phone calls.
The complaint also charges the defendants with failing to provide consumers with a notice containing: 1) the amount of the debt; 2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; 3) a statement that unless the consumer disputes the debt, it will be assumed to be valid; 4) a statement that if the consumer does dispute the debt in writing, the defendants will verify the debt is correct; and 5) a statement that upon the consumer’s written request, the defendants will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor if different from the current creditor.
Finally, the complaint charges that the defendants: called consumers at work when they knew such calls were prohibited by consumers’ employers; harassed and abused consumers; used obscene or profane language; and called consumers repeatedly with the intent of annoying or abusing them.
The complaint also alleges that the defendants violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and the Illinois Collection Agency Act, and that the defendants are not licensed debt collectors as required by Illinois law.