In this uncertain economy, millions of Americans are deep in debt, some of them have been contacted by collection agencies. While those calls can be unpleasant, more importantly, they can be a scam. It is important to know you rights.
Timothy Arent and his accomplice were caught on undercover video as they left a Post Office where they just picked up checks from people who thought they were paying off a debt.
U.S. Postal Inspectors started tracking the men for their suspected role in an elaborate debt collection scheme that targeted victims like Chris and Erin.
“One day I was at school and I got a call on my cell phone from a police officer who said he had a bench warrant for my arrest, if I didn’t call a certain law firm within the hour to pay an unpaid debt.”
The couple called the law firm which told them they needed to pay off a $4,500 debt immediately or Chris would be arrested.
Chris said, “I didn’t want an officer showing up at my work or my home and I wanted to take care of it as quickly as possible. It wasn’t fully sinking that this was a trick or a trap. I gave them my bank information, which I should never have done.”
Erin was scared, “It was that fear and intimidation to come and take him away from his school, family, and children that caused him to act in a manner he never would have before.”
Arent illegally obtained lists of people who had recently paid off debt. He then called them and bullied them into believing they owed even more.
U.S. Postal Inspector, Shelly Carosella said, “They had paid their bills and they were targeted because they had demonstrated the ability to pay.“
Postal Inspectors arrested Arnet and found how he was spending the victims’ money.
Carosella said, “Found many luxury items inside. He lived in a mansion and it was reminiscent of a museum, he had paintings, tiffany lamp, he had grand piano, grandfather clocks, the furnishings were high end.”
Consumers have rights. Debt collectors are prohibited from saying you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt.
Debt collectors cannot lie or falsely claim they are law enforcement or an attorney and they can’t harass, oppress or abuse.
Chris wants justice, “It was very traumatic, very difficult experience for both of us financially and emotional level as well. We were definitely seeking retribution and seeking vindication making sure these people paid for their crimes because they are hurting people and we’re one of them.”
Looks like he’ll get it, Arent is serving a 12-year jail sentence and is under orders to pay $3.6 million dollars in restitution.