Erin was the recipient of a recent scam attempt from Moreno and Woods, a debt collection agency that—according to her account and others found online—uses abusive tactics and fraudulent claims to try to con people into paying off debts they never owed to avoid things like wage garnishments and lawsuits. Erin fought back, and shared her story with us to warn others.
I received a voicemail today (5/27/08) out of the blue from a man who identified himself as David Cooper from Moreno and Woods. He said he was calling regarding Case Docket #93659, and that I must return his call immediately or else “the matter” could result in wage garnishment, denial of credit, or closing of existing lines of credit. He gave his number as 866-928-3160, ext. 109. Since the voicemail didn’t provide any information that would allow me to discount the matter out of hand, I returned my call.
Cooper retrieved my file, asked if I was Ms. [redacted] – I said I was – and asked me to confirm the last four digits of my SSN – I did not reply to that. I asked him what the call was regarding, and he said that they had a “judgement” against me from Bank of America regarding an outstanding balance of $20,000 on Visa account ending #1181 that was opened in 2001 and closed in 2004. (To the best of my knowledge this account never existed, let alone belonged to me – even supposing someone else had opened it in my name, there should have been some contact regarding it at some point, or a record of it on my credit report). I asked in what court the judgement was obtained, and he said they had the judgement “in the office.” I asked again what that meant, and what court of law had entered a judgement against me. He said that technically there was not a judgement yet, but three debt collections agencies had tried to get this money and so the claim was being filed in [redacted] County (where I reside – looks like they’re smart enough now to Google area codes before they get on the phone) on May 30.
I said that I had no recollection of that account, had never been contacted by a collection agency, and that I have done business with Bank of America regularly over the past several years. I asked if he thought it was odd such an issue would not have arisen in that time. He said it was odd but he wasn’t making it up and if anything someone might have stolen my identity. I said that I check my credit report regularly, and said that if someone has accumulated this debt by using my information, it would be extremely odd that it had not shown up on my credit report, and that neither BofA or a debt collection agency had contacted me in the intervening six years since the account was supposedly opened, or the four years since it supposedly defaulted. He agreed and said he was just trying to figure it since “the judgement” was against me for $20,000. At that point I told him that there might be people who fall for this sort of thing but I wasn’t one of them.
He again tried to say that it wasn’t up to him, there wasn’t anything to “fall for” because he was looking at my folder right there, and there was a judgement against me in court. I asked in what court the claim had been heard – he said again it was going to [redacted] County and would be entered there. I said I understood that, but he had already referenced a docket number (93659) and I wanted to know what court of law had provided that docket number, since a docket number would not have been generated unless a claim had already been filed against me somewhere. He said, “The docket number is here – it’s number 93659.” I asked again what court of law had provided that docket number. He could not answer (obviously, since it is a scare tactic and no claim has been filed against me anywhere).
Finally I said he had already told me so many falsehoods I had no reason to believe anything he had to say – he asked, “What, falsehoods?” I said, “You called my home, you left a threatening message saying that a claim had filed against me in court and that I could face financial penalties, then when I called you said a judgement had been entered against me – none of that is true!” He asked me to hold on (sounded like he was trying to get a supervisor on the line or something) and I refused, saying “And I’m going to ask here not to call here again,” and then hanging up.
Immediately following this conversation, I went online and obtained my credit reports from the three credit agencies (I had not obtained them in just over a year). Everything was in order – I printed off the reports – but while I was printing the last one an inquiry showed up on it from Marshall & Ziolkowski, a well known rip-off company who are now apparently using Moreno and Woods as a front. I immediately put a fraud alert on my reports as well. Hopefully this is the end of it, but I’m prepared to take legal action if they continue to contact me or try to report this fraudulent debt to the credit agencies.
I am just disgusted. The attitude would have been bad enough even if the debt existed, and since it DOES NOT EXIST, it’s even worse. And as mad as I am, I’m glad they called me instead of someone who might have believed their scare tactics and paid them – I’ve worked in the legal field before (specifically, I have worked with creditors on debt consolidation and relief for the disabled and injured), I know my few debts down the cent and I am current on all of them, I am not easily intimidated over the phone, I know how to check my credit report, add a fraud alert, and dispute fraudulent claims, I know my rights and I know what information a legitimate company would have to prove any real debt – how absolutely terrified would I be if I didn’t know any of those things? If I thought maybe there WAS some huge bill out there that I now had to pay or face legal penalties? These people should be in prison.
Erin points out that, should they call back, she has several options open to her:
The next steps, if they pursue this, could include me sending a demand for debt validation and/or cease and desist orders; reporting them to the BBB and relevant AGs [Attorney Generals]; and suing them for any violations of FDCPA or FCRA.