We first reported on Friday about what authorities are calling a phantom debt collector terrorizing people here in Sheridan. The phantom debt collector threatens people with arrest warrants and even in some cases immediate arrest if payments of up to $2,000 are not paid immediately. Chris Foy reports.
The Sheridan Police Department released a recording of a phone call between Officer Adam Balthazor with the department and a man who goes by Michael Clark or James Donello - it just depends on the day. Officer Balthazor posed as a man looking to help pay off the phantom debt that is owed from a Sheridan resident. Listen to Mike first introduce himself during the phone call with Officer Balthazor. The officer asks to speak to James.
Now compare that to a phone call I had with a man who identified himself as James - so I asked for Mike.
I asked the man about the nature of their business, collecting payments from unsuspecting citizens under false pretenses. Listen to his explanation of where he works - supposedly out of San Francisco, California.
But after Officer Balthazor revealed his real identity to the man, he changed his tune. The name of the victim has been removed from the recorded phone call.
But in my conversation with the alleged law office, actually self-admitted scammers, a woman who called herself Michelle Brown stood by her answer. The company goes by the name Department of Legal Affairs and Investigation. I asked for the mailing address of the supposed law office, something any legitimate firm would happily provide.
A simple Internet search for the Department of Legal Affairs and Investigation only points to dozens and dozens of consumer complaints from websites like Ripoff Report. If you receive a phone call from 415-952-5967, Detective Jim Arzy said he believes you are receiving a call from admitted criminals using a California number while overseas.
Just weeks ago the Federal Trade Commission issued a press release about a California man who worked with bogus debt collectors in India. The man and his companies deceived customers, and threatened them into paying for debts they were not authorized to collect. The man agreed to settle for $5.4 million - the full amount of injury.
Although the investigation into the phony Department of Legal Affairs and Investigation is ongoing, the FTC recommends vetting any caller who says they represent a debt collection agency. If you do not recognize the debt for a loan or the caller refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number - and if they ask you for highly sensitive information or exert high pressure to scare you into forking up the cash, the caller may be a phantom debt collector.
For more tips on identifying or reporting fake debt collectors visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/....