Call it “theater of the real.” A debt collection firm is accused of setting up a fake courtroom, complete with a raised “bench” and judge in black and other decorations and furniture, to trick and holding bogus hearings to extract payment from debtors.
Men dressed like sheriff’s deputies also went to clients’ homes and delivered paperwork and “summons” for the phony hearings. The documents implied the recipients would be arrested by the sheriff if they did not comply.
In a lawsuit, the Pennsylvania AG accused the firm, Unicredit, of using the courtly trappings to intimidate consumers into giving access to their bank accounts, making payments, and handing over title to cars and other assets.
“This is an unconscionable attempt to use fake court proceedings to deceive, mislead or frighten consumers into making payments or surrendering valuables to Unicredit without following lawful procedures for debt collection,” Attorney General Tom Corbett said in a statement.
The president of Unicredit told the Erie Times-News that he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit.
If you’re being pursued by debt collectors, make sure to read and understand your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. And scrutinize any paperwork you receive, just because it looks official doesn’t mean it is.
Attorney General goes to court to shut down Erie debt collector [GoErie] (Thanks to Double Echo and Jeff!)