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Attorney General Josh Stein Warns North Carolinians to Watch Out for Debt Collection Scams

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Contact:
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today warned North Carolinians to beware of fraudulent debt collectors and debt collection scams as part of Operation Corrupt Collector, a nationwide crackdown targeting debt collectors who use scare tactics to try to collect on non-existent debts.

“Debt collection scammers try to convince people that they owe unpaid debts and threaten to arrest or report you to the authorities if you don’t pay them,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Fear is one of the oldest tools in a scammer’s toolbox. If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be collecting your debt, please take the time to verify who you’re speaking with and don’t give in to the pressure to pay up. My office will fight unlawful debt collection practices and the bad actors that use them, especially with so many people struggling financially because of COVID-19.”

Attorney General Stein currently has a preliminary injunction in place in a debt collection lawsuit against Cornelius resident Gordon Scott Engle and his debt collection companies. Attorney General Stein’s lawsuit alleges that between 2012 and 2018, Engle used his debt collection companies to purchase unpaid consumer debt and has collected or attempted to collect on these unpaid debts from North Carolina consumers. Engle’s companies, which are not registered to operate as collections agencies in North Carolina, sent North Carolina consumers unofficial collection notices telling them they had committed a criminal violation by failing to return rented property, sent unsigned criminal summonses that appeared to be real, threatened arrests, and sought criminal complaints charges against consumers.

Many debt collectors employ tactics designed to scare consumers and threaten consequences. If you get a collection call or notice, take steps to verify the call and determine your rights:

  • Determine who’s calling – get their name, the name of the collection company, its address, and its phone number. Verify that this company is legitimate. In North Carolina, you can do so by contacting the North Carolina Secretary of State and the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
  • Get validation information about the debt – within five days of contacting you, debt collectors are required by law to provide you with details about the debt, including the amount, the current creditor, and how to get the name of the original creditor.
  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to arrest you or take other actions, such as suspending your driver’s license, reporting you to immigration authorities, or calling your employer. If you’re being threated, hang up and report the call to NCDOJ’s Consumer Protection Division (1-877-5-NO-SCAM) and the FTC (ftc.gov/complaint).
  • Look into the debt by checking with the original creditor.
  • Remember that you can dispute debt if you think you don’t owe some or all of it.

So far in 2020, 1,048 North Carolinians have filed reports with the FTC about debt not owed or abusive debt collection practices, and NCDOJ’s Consumer Protection Division has received 240 complaints against debt collection agencies. If you think you have been the victim of a scam, please report it to our office at http://ncdoj.gov/complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. You can also learn more about debt collection scam tactics and your rights in the debt collection process by watching this video. More information is also available at ftc.gov/debtcollection and at https://ncdoj.gov/protecting-consumers/credit-and-debt/debt-collectors/.

Attorney General Stein is participating in today’s Operational Corrupt Collector announcement along with actions from the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington.

More on Attorney General Stein’s work to fight predatory debt collection and lending practices:

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