Phantom debt collectors impersonate law firms

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Getting a call from a debt collector can be stressful. But it can be downright frightening when the caller uses lies, profanity and threats to try to get you to pay. In a case announced today, the FTC says a debt collection operation in Charlotte, NC pretended to be lawyers. Really, they were not lawyers and had no authority to collect debts.

The FTC says the “collectors” used a variety of names to make people think they were dealing with a law firm. The imposters told people they were delinquent on a payday loan or other debt and threatened them with arrest, jail time, or getting sued unless they paid by credit or debit card over the phone.

Sometimes, the callers had personal information, like Social Security and bank account numbers, or relatives’ names. The callers used this information to convince people that the calls were legitimate.

In truth, the FTC says, the defendants pressured people into paying debts they never owed.

You can’t be arrested for not paying your bills. If a debt collector calls about a debt – and before you agree to pay anything – ask for a written proof that says how much money you owe and to who, and what to do if you don’t think you owe the money. By law, debt collectors have to send you a written document, called a validation notice, within five days after they first contact you. If they don’t, that’s a warning sign that they may not be legitimate.

Debt collection complaints account for nearly one-third of consumer complaints to the FTC. If you, or someone you know, has gotten a suspicious debt collection call, report it to the FTC. With your help, we’re finding the bad guys and putting them out of business.


Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


Charles Langford called from 720-900-5644 left a voicemail on both myself and my daughters phone, stating he was "calling about a case", went on further saying they were scheduled to serve me and wanted to know whether I was going to give them any trouble and if they would be needing to bring an escort to serve me if so. This voicemail was left on both my phone number and my daughters (she's only a 9th grader, she came home from school worried!)

I called back twice with no answer, then finally received an answer on the third call. I kindly asked what the name of his agency was and his job title and what this matter was about. He proceeded to tell me that he is out of Colorado where I once lived, he gave me an address that I had lived at approximately 13-14 years ago (he said 2005). He went on to say that at that time I banked with U.S. Bank and had apparently written two checks in total where my account had insufficient funds. He went on to say that the total amount owed after penalties, fees etc was $626.00. He provided me with the account number which was 000000123456. I proceeded to tell him I vaguely recall living at the stated address and possibly using that bank but that since it was in 2005 when my son was just under a year old and is now 13 I don't recall specifics only that I had not lived at that address since that year. When I kindly pressed wondering what exactly was going on, wondering if this were a debt collector or a criminal suit I was informed by "Mr. Langford" that since this had occurred in Colorado and I am now in Texas he has contacted the local authorities in my county (which is where I live) to show up at my home tomorrow morning (Tuesday November 27) to serve me with documents, I asked if I was going to be arrested for something or simply be served with documents and a possible court date. He informed me he wasn't at liberty to say. I was very well mannered and calm with him as by this point I was quite scared and just wanted to be prepared. I assured him I wouldn't be a problem and would not try to hide from them (whoever exactly they are, he did not say he was an officer but his words led my to assume he was), I went on to explain that I am the only one home and again assured him I would not hide and that I wanted to resolve the situation, I told him that I only wanted to know so that I could make proper arrangements for my kids. Then again he reminded me he's not at liberty to say but since I seem nice and that it may have been an honest mistake he "wanted to let me know that from what he can tell they are REALLY (and he stressed REALLY) wanting to bring me back to Colorado. Again I was shocked, I explained to him that I am just speechless as any other debt I have owed I usually get reminders no matter where I move and that I have been working really hard to get my credit score up in recent years but never once heard from these people. I then asked him if he was able to find me so quickly why couldn't the bank itself or the debt collection agency find me and try to resolve this, he was very detailed in saying that the people who hired him are only required to send mail to the ONE address they had on file for me from 13 years ago and unlike them he had better resources who can find anyone. He had an answer for everything and didn't once stutter so he sounded pretty credible. I asked if there were any way possible to resolve this without being arrested. He then told me that he wasn't allowed to give out the information of the company who hired him but since I genuinely seemed like I wanted to resolve this and sounded like a nice person he would call this company as a courtesy and ask permission to release their number to me and see if we could work out some arrangement, he said if they agreed and it's resolved by morning they would no longer need to come to my home. He instructed me to call him back in 5 minutes. He specifically made sure I was aware that this wasn't necessarily a "collections issue" but since it had been so many years they actually wanted to charge me with in his words "Criminal Malicious Intent". This really did not sound good.

After 5 minutes I did as instructed and called him back, he went on about what would be required, saying after I resolve it with this firm or company (I wasn't gathering exactly who very well because at this point I was frantic and in tears while doing my best to stay calm in front on my children as I cooked dinner) but I listened to his instructions, he gave me the number to call, 1-800-763-1731 and ask to speak to a mediator, he even gave me a case number 436955CO. So I did as he told me and called the number, SMS Mediation. I asked for a mediator and was transferred to a Mr. Stevenson at extension 7601. There I briefly explained my conversation with Mr. Langford. He confirmed the information, he went on to say that in many cases they (whoever they are) don't like to drop the charges because once it's gone this far they would lose out on attorney's fees. He told me the total of the debt again $626.00 and said he could take it to his departments legal team but that I should make an offer to help them consider it, he specifically gave the option of adding $100-$200 to the balance to close out the case. It was after dinner by this point and in my mind I'm thinking I'm going to be arrested at my home in the next 12 hours if I don't get this resolved tonight so naturally I agreed to $200 because although I'm not even 100% certain these charges are mine they had ALL of my information, I figured it must be real. He placed me on hold for a few minutes, when he returned he said they agreed to settle it for $775.00 and that I would be given a confirmation number to call back Mr. Langford and they as well would also contact him to confirm it had been resolved so that "they" wouldn't need to show up at my home tomorrow. I was so relieved! Even though again I wasn't 100% sure this was even something I had done 13 years ago I didn't want to risk the chance of being arrested while I had no one to care for my children. So then the mediator Mr. Stevenson advised me that there were 3 ways I could pay 1.) Wire transfer (but then he said those take longer and may not clear by morning) 2.) Pay using my banks debit card with my name on it, he informed me that if I choose this method there would be an additional 20% charge since according to them I was in this mess in the first place for lack of funds so to prevent any further issues they would charge extra...then there was 3.) Load money onto a prepaid Visa or MasterCard, there would be no additional fees and it's the quickest way to clear the payment.(BIG RED FLAG) I said ok and ended the call thinking I would rush to load money on the prepaid Visa but it dawned on me I didn't have a ride so I immediately called him back and informed him I don't drive and would have to take Uber to the store so it may take me an hour, I was concerned his office would be closing soon and didn't want to miss the deadline. Mr. Steveson assured me he would be there for two more hours so I had plenty of time, so again I ended the call and told him I would call him within an hour with the information. After hanging up I called my boyfriend, ultimately we decided the best way to get it over with would be to suck it up and pay the extra 20%, I was concerned with the timing with Uber and I also had my children with me and it was their bedtime on a school night. So again I called Mr. Stevenson and told him I was fine with the extra 20% I just wanted peace of mind, he had mentioned in a previous conversation that in order to use my banks debit card I would need to fax in a form that they would send me to fill out, so during this call I asked for the form, I gave him my email address and he placed me on hold, I believe he said he was going to give accounting/legal the information. After being placed on hold for only a few short moments he came back saying he couldn't believe it, but his accounting department said that instead of having to pay the additional 20% with my debit card I could just use the app SquareCash (Another Red Flag), I told him I was familiar with the app and was about to get the instructions on where to send the money via the app, I knew my boyfriend was skeptical and was worried it was a scam but I was just so overwhelmed I just wanted it over, I suffer from anxiety and have been on heavy prescriptions for 7 years so I probably wasn't thinking with a clear head just a panicked one, so I informed Mr. Stevens my boyfriend was on the phone with me on a 3 way call and asked if I could give permission for him to talk on my behalf to make sure I was following the instructions properly and fully understanding the process. Now my boyfriend begins to ask a few simple questions and as they are talking it dawns on me that yes something definitely seems a little off, but up until this point I believed them because they didn't have the typical foreign accents as most scam artists do, they both seemed very well spoken and professional, they knew my information from more than a decade ago and I don't usually consider myself to be gullible, in fact if anything I'm very untrusting. My bf asked what the company is and he just rambled on and didn't really want to spell it out. Then the payment was going to a law firm called Hannah, Kendrix, Zachary and Associates. He googled it real quick and it was out of business. Then the person said they're from a different state. (Another red flad). I could tell by listening to him and my boyfriend talk my boyfriend had serious doubts and Mr. Stevenson suddenly wasn't making any sense, so I just ended the 3 way call. I called my boyfriend back and told him I ended it so I could speak to him privately. Together we called my local police department to see if they could confirm any such arrest were happening tomorrow, if so I just wanted to resolve right away. Immediately the dispatcher informed us before we could even finish our sentence that it was undoubtedly a scam, and reminded me to never send money over the phone. I already knew all of this and had it been just someone looking for only money I would have hung up immediately but these people threatened arrest and prosecution of an actual crime, I was scared and panicked so naturally I wanted to do whatever I could as soon as I could to just get it over with.

These are useful details for a complaint. Please report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Getting calls from 844-711-5958 supposedly a person identifying themselves as Steven Dunbar, private locator, process server who had my name last four of my social, my license plate number, my residence address and about three of my former residence addresses on my work phone, and cell phone. Started out claiming to have a summons for a civil case, then somehow changed to a criminal charge for a defaulted payday loan. He also stated he would be out to my place of employment and the various address he mentioned to serve me. I told them they must be mistaken and to corresspond via mail and do not contact me by phone and then hung up. I blocked their number on my cell phone. But these aggressive people won't give up, they constantly call from different numbers claiming to come and arrest or serve me. Isn’t any legal proceedings or case filing notification done by mail and not over the phone?

That caller could be a fake debt collector, even if he has some of your personal information. A caller may be a fake debt collector if he:

  • wants you to pay a debt for a loan you don't recognize
  • refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
  • asks for financial or sensitive information
  • uses pressure and tries to scare you into paying, or threatens to have you arrested or reported to law enforcement.

If you think a caller is a fake, ask for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell him you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice." The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If he refuses to give you all of this information, do not pay.

Called twice in one day from an "Unknown" caller ID, same as previous comments listed below - Robo caller named "Rebecca Morgan" saying there's a fax order to be sent to a relative of mine - final attempt at place of residence or business. Did not answer, pretty sure it's a scam - Reporting to FCC as I'm on the Do Not Call list.

Full Transcript Provided Below:

Hello, my name is Rebecca Morgan. This important message is intended for {last name of relative}. I have a fax order scheduled for delivery. I will make one final attempt at your place of employment and/or residence regarding proper delivery of these documents. To schedule an alternate location, please call 1-855-210-8957... again 1-855-210-8957 regarding this matter. I called FTC and was told to call them back if calls proceeded with my reference #

lawyers suwing if not you do not pay form phone 917-881-5692 I don't give my name out and they used a different name than mine don't give my name when I answer phone until I know who I am talking about.

Received call that I would be served papers the next day if I didn't pay $500. said I owed over $7000 to past payday loan for interest, late charges, etc. Said they had been trying to contact me at old email address and old home address. Supposedly was talking to an attorney for arbitration. Want me to send money order to a Linda Beman who is a 70 year old lady living in a trailer park in Frostproof, FL. Phone number they are calling from (347) 328-0111

Got a call from Mr. Russell and several messages have been left on my cell. I also got a call at work from the same local number form Capital Reassurance. I guess they have been very busy calling everyone in the country. Is there anything that can be done to stop this calls. They are annoying and well just a pain in the neck . By the way I told the last person that called that I would be back to work next Wednesday and when that day comes I will just say that I no longer work here. Well I will pretend to be someone else. They are really annoying


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