For years, Consumerist has written about unscrupulous debt collectors that have attempted — sometimes successfully — to collect thousands of dollars from consumers who don’t actually owe a debt. This type of scheme is apparently alive and well in Illinois, where investigators say the ploy is one of the most popular for alleged con artists preying on residents, prompting the state’s Attorney General to file suit against at least one such operation.
CBS Chicago reports that Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office filed criminal contempt charges against the operator of a debt collection operation that allegedly bilked millions from consumers that has been in trouble before.
The company, New Britain Financial, appears to be just one in a string of companies related to Nelson Macwan, who was prohibited from working in debt collection in Illinois in 2015.
However, that apparently hasn’t stopped the man, as Madigan’s office says it has received more than 100 complaints about Macwan.
Madigan says that Macwan used “really abusive debt collection practices, trying to collect on phantom debts, calling people threatening to file lawsuits against them,” noting that when his bank account was frozen it contained more than $1.8 million.
One victim tells CBS Chicago that she was duped out of $30,000 by three debt collection companies, including one that was owned by Macwan and another allegedly owned by one of Macwan’s relatives.
“I never thought it would happen to me, it almost seems like it’s older people that it happens to,” the woman tells CBS Chicago.
The woman recalls receiving many phone calls from debt collection agencies informing her that she owed between $7,000 and $9,000. She ultimately paid the debts, believing they were incurred by her ex-husband before they were divorced.
She only learned of the scheme when a bank detective told her she may have been scammed.
The AG’s office claims that the collection operation run by Macwan was traced to a P.O. Box in Indiana, while the company allegedly run by a relative was located in an empty office building.
In the end, CBS Chicago reports that with the bank detective’s help, most of the woman’s money was returned.