Almost immediately after Laurie Lucas picked up the phone, the many from “Legal Affidavit Office” began reading off a litany of charges he said “US National Bank” had filed against her. Theft of property. Fraud. Money laundering. “Eric Matthews” said that he, “felt sorry for the tragedy that was getting ready to befall” her for her failure to pay back a $5,000 payday loan. They would be coming to arrest her tomorrow morning at 11am, he said in an identifiably Indian accent. When Laurie protested that she had never taken out such a loan, or even a payday loan in her life, and had never heard of US National Bank, Eric said she should have kept better records…
I interviewed Laurie about her experience successfully fending off the US National Bank scammers. Read the transcript and learn how you too can protect yourself, inside…
BEN POPKEN: First things first, please state your first and last name for the record.
LAURIE LUCAS: Laurie Lucas.
BEN POPKEN: Where are you calling from?
LAURIE LUCAS: Ohio.
BEN POPKEN: Ohio. The heartland.
LAURIE LUCAS: Yes.
BEN POPKEN: Why don’t you basically tell me when the calls started, what their tone was like, what they asked you, and how it made you feel.
LAURIE LUCAS: Ok the calls started about the beginning of September. The phone call was, I answered it, it was a very foreign-sounding person, and he said I need to speak to Laurie Lucas and I said this is she. And he said this is Eric Matthews from Legal Affidavit Office and I am going to read you charges that have been pressed against you. And he began to read off this list of charges, like bank fraud and a couple of other ones, and he said you are being charged by US NATIONAL BANK, because you had a loan with them which you didn’t pay, you owe them $5,000 and they’ve decided to write it off. He was very matter of fact, very serious. These are serious charges. He said there was nothing that I could do at this point. Bottom line was I was charged. The company would not accept any money from me or anything to take care of this. And that I would be arrested tomorrow morning at 11am. They would be coming to pick me up.
BEN POPKEN: Did he say who was coming?
LAURIE LUCAS: No.
BEN POPKEN: Just “they.”
LAURIE LUCAS: “They.” “They” would be coming. So I’m not sure who was going to come. But anyway, and I kinda knew right away…just too many things that didn’t make sense. Just from the first readings and all that kind of nonsense. Then also, I don’t know anyone who has a foreign accent whose name is Eric Matthews.
BEN POPKEN: Could you kinda tell what kinda accent it was?
LAURIE LUCAS: Really, I think it was Indian. And I only say that because we have so many companies that end up calling, we end up talking to customer service there with “Pete” or you know… I do believe it was an Indian accent. So I said to him, you know, well, you’ll have to send me something by mail. Or you can go ahead and send them out to arrest me. And I started to hang up and he said you know, you’re not taking this seriously. And I said, tell you what, let me take your information again. You said your name was Eric Matthews, and who do you work for? And he said Legal Affidavit Office. And I said where is that located? And he said California, and you’ll have to appear in California for court. I said, well, are you an attorney? And he said no, he kept repeating the name of the office. I said, do you work for an attorney. He said yes, he said he was The Prosecutor. And I asked, for what county? And he said no, I work for the attorney. And I said, for what attorney? And he finally gave me the name of an attorney, and the man’s name was Michael Johnson, and I asked where the office was located, and he said, and he didn’t want to tell me and I pressed a little more, and he said Hanford California. So the whole time he’s talking I’m typing in on Google Legal Affidavit Offce, and it immediately comes up on ripoffreport. And so I’m now aware I’m now talking, as if I wasn’t aware before, that I’m now talking to a scam artist. So I said, do you have a number for him, is there a number where I can reach you? And he said no no no, I’ll be calling you back. Well, I hung up. I immediately looked for a Michael Johnson, an attorney, and I found him in Hamford California. And I called him. And he had never heard of this company, he was just shocked. And he was thrilled that called him up and let him know that they were using his name. And he filed a report with the Federal Trade Commission, and also with Ventura County police. Since it was Ventura county where they were calling from. And the next I got another call and I just said, send me a letter by mail. The thing that’s concerning to me is about it, is that they have my Social and all my information, but it’s all jumbled. It’s not correct.
BEN POPKEN: Really.
LAURIE LUCAS: They immediately want you to validate it. And they also said it was a payday loan. And that they needed the name of my two references to verify more information, they needed the name of the two references from my loan application. And then, a couple other things he asked me for and I just kept, trying to find out more information, and immediately, as soon I pushed, he hung up. And I received maybe 3 or 4 calls, and been getting more, and then today, I got a call from my husband, now using my husband’s name, from them, saying that he’s going to be arrested. And they need to talk to him right away.
BEN POPKEN: Same thing all over again.
LAURIE LUCAS: Right. About his debt with US National Bank. And so I just said, send it in writing, and hung up. But again, they were reading all the charges, and telling me his social, and again, it was jumbled, but it’s still concerning.
BEN POPKEN: Sure. What do you mean by jumbled?
LAURIE LUCAS: They have the numbers transposed. So they have the right numbers, but not in the right order. You know, if it’s 123, they have, 231.
BEN POPKEN: Did they also have information like your bank’s name and account numbers?
LAURIE LUCAS: Yes, they did. They did. They had my bank number. They did not have my account numbers. They wanted me to give them those, of course. But they did know my bank, and they also knew my birth date, and things like that.
BEN POPKEN: Have you ever in the past taken out a payday loan?
LAURIE LUCAS: No.
BEN POPKEN: Ok. Not an online cash advance or anything like that?
LAURIE LUCAS: No.
BEN POPKEN: You said you were familiar with these kinds of calls from customer service reps, and you’re on the debt forums…have you had troubles dealing with debt?
LAURIE LUCAS: No, actually the reason I’m on the debtforum is I started just trying to do some more research and I typed in Legal Affidavit Fraud and scams and I was just kind of reading all this information and I came across this one. And I was reading the forum where people posted that they had been called and what do we do and all this sort of thing and I saw yours on there.
BEN POPKEN: Right. So, basically, upstanding citizens, your accounts are in good standing….
LAURIE LUCAS: I’d like to think so, yeah
BEN POPKEN: Pay your bills on time, that sort of thing…
LAURIE LUCAS: Yeah.
BEN POPKEN: The foreclosure crisis is not going to land on your doorstep anytime soon.
LAURIE LUCAS: No no no no.
BEN POPKEN: Great. Can you describe for me, you said his tone was matter of fact—
LAURIE LUCAS: It was very intimidating. It was very matter-of-fact, very intimidating, very authoritative, he would not stop talking. I said hold on a minute, and he just continued to read these charges.
BEN POPKEN: What did he say when called after 11am the next day and you hadn’t been arrested?
LAURIE LUCAS: He told me that he held it, to try to make arrangements, for a settlement on my behalf. And he was talking to his attorneys to see if they would in fact accept a settlement from me. And he kept warning me, I don’t think they will. But depending if you can pay today, they might be willing to work with you.
BEN POPKEN: So he’s helping you out, so he’s your friend.
LAURIE LUCAS: Exactly. Right. He’s going to be the one to work on my behalf, with the other attorneys.
BEN POPKEN: The bad guys.
LAURIE LUCAS: Right. My buddy.
BEN POPKEN: Besides the threat of arrest, did he specify any other threats against you or your family or anything?
LAURIE LUCAS: No. He just said he hoped that I “understood the gravity of the situation.” And that he “felt sorry for,” how did he put it, “the tragedy that was getting ready to befall me.”
BEN POPKEN: Wow. That’s some language.
LAURIE LUCAS: It is, isn’t it?
BEN POPKEN: What did he say when you told him you had never taken out this loan, you had never heard of US National Bank and you had no idea what he was talking about?
LAURIE LUCAS: He said that I should keep better records. And that indeed I had. and I said, when then you will need to send that to me, so that I can verify it, all the original information, where I had taken out the loan, where I had signed for it, all that information. The original documents. He said that he was not required to do that. And if I didn’t have the paperwork, I should have kept better documents.
BEN POPKEN: Now, I have to commend you Laurie Lucas because you did a very good job from fending this guy off, and you sound like a real solid citizen and a pretty—
LAURIE LUCAS:—I knew right away it was a scam, I just wanted to hear what they had to say. Without giving any of my information away. I really wanted to hear what the deal was. I’m just always concerned, and I have two daughters in college and they get calls, or things like that, my daughter got an email from someone saying that she was going to inherit $50 million from Nigeria and she called me right away. And I said nonono, send that back
BEN POPKEN: Right. There is no Nigerian Prince. While you were able to fend them off pretty well and stand your ground, what do you think happens to other people out there who might be a little scatterbrained, might have a bunch of loans out, for whom this might not be the only call of this kind that they’ve received?
LAURIE LUCAS: I actually have, I used to be military. And I’m retired. And I used to have some young troops who would take out payday loans and I would get calls at the office for them you know that they hadn’t paid the payday loan and this and that and the other thing. These kids were terrified. And they were in way over their head, and, there was no way they were ever going to pay them off. So, I have some experience with the payday loan deal. Just…it has to be terrifying for them. Because I think what happens, and I know with one of my troops, he had signed up online with two different companies and tried with several, so he had no idea who had his information… you’re just filling out forms online with all your social and your everything and I think for someone like him, if they had called him he would have panicked. He would have just been panicked. And I believe he would have paid the money. Any amount of money. And I think that’s probably what happens. And he starts off by reading all these you know legitimate-sounding charges against you and if you don’t really understand how things work, that you can’t be arrested for bad debts, you go to court and be sued, I’m sure people panic. And I know payday loans, I mean, nobody wanted me to know that they had them. They’re very embarrassed and didn’t want kids to know. And that’s even more fuel for the fire for these people. And that they don’t want to tell people, yeah, I had a payday loan and now these people are calling me, so I imagine they get quite a bit of money from people trying to not be in trouble and you know they get in such a circle with these things they don’t know who they owe. I imagine it’s got to be terrifying to get this call and think you might be arrested. To me it was almost comical.
BEN POPKEN: It sounds like you were having a little fun with him.
LAURIE LUCAS: I kinda was, I mean “the prosecutor who works for the attorney…” That’s gotta be, his caseload has got to be incredible, his record is impeccable if he’s working for the attorney, just, none of it made any sense. But I know some people don’t understand a lot of things, how a lot of things work, and they may just be so terrified that they send the money. And I’m sure it’s working, otherwise they wouldn’t be calling so much and you wouldn’t see all those things on ripoff report, this particular forum and there’s several others where they’re out there. So it’s obviously working or they wouldn’t continue their scam. It’s really sad. To me, those people who are taking out those payday loans, they’re already in trouble, and they’re already overwhelmed, these are people who probably don’t have a lot of money or financial skills to start with. I just think it’s sad.
BEN POPKEN: They’re not in a great place to begin with. They kind of pick the perfect targets.
LAURIE LUCAS: They do, I think they must. I’m just curious, because there’s a few people who don’t have payday loans, or anything like that.
BEN POPKEN: Pardon?
LAURIE LUCAS: I’m just curious how they get people like me, because there’s a couple other people who never had any payday loans, who never did anything online like that. So I’m just wondering. So that’s the only curious thing to me, is how did you get my information.
BEN POPKEN: They have to have bought it from somewhere. I was surprised when you said you hadn’t taken out any payday loans… When you were helping out your troops did you ever list yourself as a contact, or a reference or a guarantee on any of them?
LAURIE LUCAS: No the only thing I ever did is say if it doesn’t get paid you can give me a call and I gave them my name and phone number to the company.
BEN POPKEN: That might have been it.
LAURIE LUCAS: That might have been it, huh?
BEN POPKEN: What these guys do, a lot of places online where you’re entering your information, they collect all that, and then they resell it to other people, and these other people create these massive databases by buying information from all these different sites and then they’re able to combine them together. So they could have had your name and phone number, and at some point, other pieces of your information fell into some other guys hands, and they collected that together, built a record…
LAURIE LUCAS: Oh my gosh.
BEN POPKEN: And once they built it up enough, they were able to throw all this balderdash at you. And say we have your social your bank and dadadada then they sell it to this illegal debt collector, collection group, what have you, the fun begins.
LAURIE LUCAS: That’s amazing.
BEN POPKEN: So you have to be really careful who you give your info to, I guess, is the takeaway on that.
LAURIE LUCAS: I have a credit watch monitoring service on my credit report and my husband’s and my two children, I’m, as I said, I’m retied Air Force. It happened about a year ago that the Department of veteran affairs lost all our information, or it was stolen.
BEN POPKEN: Yeah, I heard about that.
LAURIE LUCAS: And I received a letter that said yeah, you’re one of them. Also, the Department of Defense, the tri-care health insurance company, also all my information was released from them. Without even trying, there’s two sources are out there.
BEN POPKEN: It’s crazy.
LAURIE LUCAS: There’s so much that you can’t do anymore unless you do it online. Even with your regular bills. Our car payments, they want you to be set up online, they want you to set up the auto debit stuff and have it come out of your checking automatically and they want you to pay it online and they encourage it because with our car payment, we get a $15 processing fee if pay our bill by calling it in. but if you do it online, it’s free. if you mail it in, and they process it later than the date it’s due, then you get a late fee. so, it’s no win. I’m always amazed at how crooked the whole system is.
BEN POPKEN: It is. But hopefully, by exposing the information from the US National Bank scam and your story and the other stories I’ve gathered, we’ll be able to help inform consumers to protect themselves.
LAURIE LUCAS: I hope so.